Being satisfied with second best was a trait you would
never associate with Sean Fitzpatrick during his decorated All
But one of New Zealand rugby's iconic figures accepts this
demotion is inevitable - when the All Blacks play Ireland in
Dublin next weekend he most likely no longer will be the
country's most capped test player.
Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina join him on 92 tests at
Murrayfield on Sunday (NZT) when New Zealand attempt to clear
the Scottish obstacle of their Grand Slam tour.
Fitzpatrick, baptised as a "Baby Black" against the French at
Christchurch in 1986, ended his test career in 1997 and
subsequently watched on proudly as McCaw and Muliaina have
grown to match his longevity.
"I couldn't think of two better people than Richie and Mils
to beat my record," he said.
"They are outstanding All Blacks, good leaders of men and for
me it's an honour to pass the baton on to those two."
Fitzpatrick was manager of the New Zealand under-21 side in
2000-01 when McCaw and Muliaina were in the team and realised
then the openside flanker was destined for a prolonged
"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."
McCaw captained the side for the first time at Cardiff in
2004 and succeeded Tana Umaga on a permanent basis when the
centre retired after the 2005 Grand Slam tour.
He eclipsed Fitzpatrick's record of 51 tests as captain in
September against the Wallabies in Sydney, a contest
Fitzpatrick said personified McCaw's mana and coolness under
The All Blacks fought back from 9-22 inside the final 10
minutes to snatch a one-point victory, thanks in part to
McCaw's try from an admittedly dubious scrum move.
The last-gasp 29-22 win in Soweto, where McCaw also
contributed a vital late try, also resonated with the former
"Richie is just leading by example, with the way he has
captained the team this year, especially in the tests in
Soweto and Sydney," he said.
McCaw said it would be an honour to eventually surpass
"I was at secondary school when he was playing in his prime,
I used to watch with awe," he said.
"You always knew when he was out on the field."
The pair meet intermittently, they had a brief catch-up
before the Soweto test against Springboks in August.
"He's a good man to have a yarn to, we've been through a fair
few similar experiences," McCaw said.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry, who coached Fitzpatrick at
Auckland and the Blues, reckoned his former and current
captain were cut from the same black cloth.
"They're very similar characters, they are very focused in
being the best they can be and they work particularly hard to
achieve that," Henry said.
"Fitzy's a special character. He's one of the great All Black
"He was respected by the rest of the (rugby) world. He was a
"It was just a pity his knee gave way and he had to give the
game away because no doubt he would have played 100-plus test