McCaw: Ireland have a chance in South Africa
2013 can be spur Irish need to beat All Blacks
When the moment came for Richie McCaw to leave the game behind, the record-breaking All Black captain went from one extreme to another in the land of extreme sports.
He turned his focus from the Rugby World Cup to a 550-kilometre Adventure Race, taking in mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, rafting over five days in Kaiteriteri on the South Island of New Zealand.
Two weeks later, he is taking questions at the other end of the world.
"I guess it is something that I have always been intrigued by because I had a few mates that did it," he recounts.
"Last year, when I finished playing, they asked me if I was interested and it pretty much meant that I went into a different lot of training straight after the World Cup which was a bit silly in one way.
"But, in another way, it totally got me away from rugby to something different with a challenge. It took me out of my comfort zone."
The All Blacks make it their business to take those that would challenge their dominance of international rugby out of their comfort zone.
For all of Ireland's progress in the game, New Zealand and a World Cup semi-final remain the two unbreakable barriers.
In November 2013, Joe Schmidt got as close as anyone before him in taking them to the wire. Even then, it all came down to a 75th minute penalty kick.
"From a mental point of view, the one moment when Johnny Sexton lined up that goal that would have sealed it.
"But, the fact that it didn't opened the door for us and you could see our guys, we had been offered the opportunity.
"That's the fine line in sport. If he had been offered that again, he would probably have got that goal. If we had that moment again maybe we wouldn't have scored the try. That's what intrigues you.
"I felt we didn't really deserve to win," says McCaw. "That's what I loved about the team I was involved in. You found a way to, when you didn't deserve to."
What happened that faithless day in 2013 can either spur Ireland on or spurn their advances of taking out the new look All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 5 and/or back in The Aviva Stadium on November 19.
"I guess it is up to the players how they look at it," he says. They could take a leaf out of that 'yeah, it is all possible'.'
"But, if you start thinking 'ah, here we go again', that can be a barrier as well."
Before then, Ireland embark on a three-test tour to South Africa, a place McCaw knows only too well.
"It's one of the toughest places to play. It's pretty intimidating too. Their support around games can get on top of you a little bit.
"But, on the other side of it, it's one of the great places to play. If you get a win there, it's pretty satisfying.
"The Springboks have similar issues to the All Blacks, guys moving on, a new coach and all of that. It's probably a good opportunity for the Irish."
For McCaw, the constant pressure to perform was always under-pinned by the need to move the game on.
"If you're standing still, you're going backwards, that's the key.
"What we did in October, if we're not thinking about being better and finding different ways of being better, then you lose that drive and desire and what it takes to perform every week.
"I think trying to be better is a way of keeping it going."
Schmidt will do everything in his power to break with Ireland's losing tradition in South Africa and against Nw Zealand. It could even demand the attention of the New Zealand rugby union.
"Certainly Joe, with his record and the teams he's been involved with, has been pretty successful.
"I know the guys who have experienced his coaching before he came over here always talked pretty highly of him.
"We nearly suffered from that in 2013, so it doesn't go unnoticed absolutely," he states.
"I think down the track a guy like that could come back and coach in New Zealand, maybe the All Blacks one day.
"He's the type of guy who'd be great. The experience he has is pretty awesome really."
For the moment, the qualified Commercial pilot has no intention of returning to the game.
"It's not about what you're missing. It's about the memories you have."
The three-time World Player of the Year left many of them for us.