World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw confirmed on Thursday that he is hanging up his boots.
The 34-year-old has drawn the curtain on his stunning international career which started in Dublin 14 years ago, almost to the day, and ended in London last month when he hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup aloft for the second time.
McCaw announced his decision at a media conference at the New Zealand Rugby offices in Wellington.
'I'm hanging up my boots having accomplished everything I could have ever dreamed about in the game. Knowing that I was able to end my career by helping the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup Final is a hugely satisfying feeling,' he said.
'Professional rugby has been great to me. It's allowed me to pursue my passion, to be involved with great people, hopefully make those close to me proud and travel the world. I've had some wonderful experiences for which I'm very grateful and I'd like to thank New Zealand Rugby for the opportunities they have given me.
'The support and encouragement from my family and friends has been huge throughout my career and I want to thank them. Mum and Dad haven't missed many of my games and I thank them, Gemma and the rest of my family for everything they have done.
'I've also been really fortunate to have had some great coaches and played with some outstanding players over the years, from my teenage years through to Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks. I'd like to thank them too for all they have done for me throughout my career.
'I'd also like to thank the fans who have supported me, both here and overseas. Your unwavering and passionate support for myself and the other players has always given us a huge lift, wherever we have played. We play the game to make you proud and I hope I have managed to do that over the years.'
McCaw said he would now be concentrating on his business, personal sponsorship and charity interests.
'I am heavily involved in the Christchurch Helicopters company, they are great people and I'm excited about the opportunities there. Aviation is something I'm passionate about, I'm going to carry on flying and work towards getting my commercial pilot licence.
'The iSport Foundation charity, which I set up with Dan Carter and Ali Williams, also gives us the opportunity to help talented teenagers reach their potential in their chosen sport, which is a cool way for us to give back.
'I'm now really excited about starting the next chapter of my life. I'm looking forward to the future and what it may hold.'
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen added: 'On behalf of the All Blacks, we want to congratulate Richie on everything he has achieved in his career. All this success couldn't have happened to a better bloke and we wish him all the very best for the future.
'In my opinion, he will go down not only as the greatest All Black of all time, but the greatest captain we have ever had and possibly the greatest player to have ever played the game in the modern era.
'To play 148 Tests is something to be marvelled at on its own, particularly with the physical demands of the position he plays. But the more impressive thing about those 148 games is the quality of the performances he produced. Having been involved in the majority of those Test matches, I can't recall him ever playing a bad game.
'His ability as a leader will be something he will be remembered for. Leadership doesn't come to anyone naturally, it's a learned skill. After the adversity of 2007 and the criticism that came with that, Richie's mental toughness and desire to improve really shone through. It's those qualities that have made him, in my view, the greatest leader of the All Blacks of all time.
'He's been an inspiration to us all. Not only has he enhanced the jersey during his time, but he has left a lasting legacy that will be talked about by many people long after we're all gone. It's been an absolute pleasure to have shared the road with him.'
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images