Fitzy pays tribute to modern greats
November 11, 2010
McCaw and Muliaina have been the bedrock of New Zealand rugby for the last decade © Getty Images
Sean Fitzpatrick has paid tribute to current All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina, who will this weekend equal his record of 92 Test caps for New Zealand.
The pair have been named in the All Blacks team to play Scotland at Murrayfield this Saturday, with McCaw in his familiar No.7 jersey and Muliaina at No.15. The 29-year-old McCaw and 30-year-old Muliaina first met on the rugby field when McCaw's Otago Boys' High School played Muliaina's Southland Boys' High School in 1997. They then played together in various New Zealand age-grade teams before embarking on their stellar All Blacks careers.
McCaw made his Test debut on November 17, 2001 against Ireland as a fresh-faced 20-year-old and captained the All Blacks for the first time against Wales on the 2004 end of year tour, aged just 23. He is already the most capped All Blacks Test captain in history and will extend that record when he leads the side for the 55th time this weekend.
Muliaina joined the national squad in 2003 making his Test debut as a 22-year-old against England in Wellington on June 14 and has also captained the side in three Tests. He has scored 145 points and, remarkably, will play Scotland for the first time this weekend.
Fitzpatrick, who played for the All Blacks from 1986 to 1997, said it was a remarkable achievement for McCaw and Muliaina to join him as the most capped All Blacks, with both players also set to extend the record.
"I couldn't think of two better people than Richie and Mils to beat my record. They are outstanding All Blacks, good leaders of men and for me it's an honour to pass the baton on to those two," said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick was manager of the New Zealand Under 21 side in 2000 - 2001 when McCaw and Muliaina were in the team. "I said to Richie at the time that I would love you to beat my record as the most capped All Black ever - we joked about it then and now it's going to happen."
Fitzpatrick said McCaw and Muliaina were getting better with age. "Richie is just leading by example, with the way he has captained the team this year, especially in the Tests in Soweto and Sydney [where the All Blacks beat South Africa 29-22 and Australia 23-22 respectively], while Mils is a very, very special talent and very down to earth."
All Blacks coach Graham Henry has also paid tribute to the duo, declaring, "It is a fantastic achievement for both men and it's great that they are able to reach the milestone together this weekend in Scotland. They are icons of the game, have huge respect and mana within the All Blacks, in New Zealand and around the world, and will have many more Tests together in the All Blacks jersey."
New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew added, "We are incredibly fortunate to have two of the greats playing rugby for the All Blacks right now. They have given - and continue to give - sterling service to the black jersey and we join All Blacks fans at home and around the world in celebrating this very special milestone. Congratulations to them both."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.