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McCaw details the true extent of how a broken foot hindered him during the All Blacks' run to the World Cup title in 2011 and how he hid it from coaches, teammates and media in his biography Richie McCaw: The Open Side, extracts of which have been published today.
The 31-year-old, who became the first player to chalk up 100 Test wins after beating the Springboks 32-16 at the weekend, says he battled intense pain in the semifinal.
"During the warm-up I didn't feel it too much, but five minutes into the game I felt it again. Something letting go. A clunk or pop or crack. The pain came back.
"It was sore all the way through the semi, but only really sore when the whistle went. One of the most challenging bits was running up the tunnel at half time. Getting on and off the field was complete agony," he says.
McCaw says he had told team doctor Deb Robinson he would play as long as he could but if the pain got too great and it was affecting his decision-making he would quit.
He refused to have the foot X-rayed because he knew the extent of the injury and relied on painkillers to get him through.
He says he did not tell the coaching team, his team and media how bad the injury was.
"I don't let on to the coaches too much, there's no point in freaking them. I just keep telling them I'll be right, I'm good to go, that I'm confident that even if I don't train at all, I can still go out and perform.
"The hardest bit is around the team and around the media, particularly. I have to really grit my teeth and try to walk normally."
In the book McCaw also lambasts the 2007 Rugby World Cup organisers who "appointed the most inexperienced referee on the roster" for the All Blacks' infamous quarter-final against France.
Englishman Wayne Barnes left the nation seething after a string of poor decisions which tipped the competition favourites off balance and saw them knocked out.
Speaking for the first time about the ref, the usually reserved flanker said: "I don't blame Barnes, but I do blame the people who appointed the most inexperienced referee on the roster to a RWC quarter-final between the hosts and the favourites. I thought both teams deserved a referee with experience.
"My beef isn't with Barnes so much as with his inexperience. This was Barnes' biggest game by far. On the big stage, an inexperienced referee is likely to become so afraid of making a mistake that he stops making any decisions at all.
"By the end of it, I thought Barnes was frozen with fear and wouldn't make any big calls."
Among his decisions, Barnes missed a host of apparent ruck indiscretions by the French and a forward pass that led directly to a French try.
France lost to England in the semis. South Africa won the tournament.
McCaw's comments follow claims in former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry's book that the team were victims of match-fixing.
McCaw, 31, also talks about what went through his head four years later when the whistle blew to end the 2011 RWC final - meaning the All Blacks had won for the first time since 1987.
After beating France 8-7, the next few moments went by in a blur, he said.
"The moment I've been waiting four years for. I thought I'd feel more. It's like I'm seeing it all through someone else's eyes. The welling emotion of the crowd rolling over me, too mentally and physically shot to really respond."
- AAP and APNZ