Legendary referee Nigel Owens has singled out the man he believes to be the hardest player he has come across on the pitch.
In a new publication by Luke Upton entitled Hard Men of Rugby, Owens wrote the foreword and sprung something of a surprise as his pick did not feature amongst the twenty players cited in the book.
“A popular question put to me is, who is the hardest player I’ve ever across on the pitch? Well, many of the players included in this book would be very high up on my list but when it comes to the hardest of all, I’m sorry Luke, it’s not one of your suggestions. Though I can see one of your interviewees has agreed with me… it’s Richie McCaw.”
The book features some expected characters such as Jerry Collins, Bakkies Botha, Jacques Burger, Wayne Shelford and Martin Johnson, yet McCaw’s name is absent.
Owens will soon become the first referee to officiate in 100 test matches and has seen a fair bit during his time on the pitch. Regarding McCaw, Owens continued:
“Capped 148 times by New Zealand, despite playing in the most attritional of positions, where every game he would be throwing himself into harm’s way, perhaps by locking himself over possession and soaking up the attention of immensely powerful forwards who would do everything they could wipe him off the ball. Now that’s what I call a genuine hard man!”