Patrick McKendry/NZ Herald

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As New Zealand prepares to go into a four-week lockdown in a bid to contain the Covid-19 virus, former All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has urged the nation to try to remain connected as individuals and families around the nation face up to a very different challenge.

Former loose forward McCaw, who played 148 tests and won two World Cups (the first, in 2011, while playing on a broken foot) is regarded as the best captain and one of the best and toughest players to have worn the black jersey.

He and his family are not without challenges themselves. His wife Gemma is a Black Sticks hockey player who is continuing to train for the Olympics in Tokyo without knowing when exactly they will be held. Overnight officials postponed the Games to no later than July next year.

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McCaw is also an owner and director of a Christchurch-based helicopter business which will be affected by the lockdown and tourist drought as the world comes to terms with a rapidly spreading pandemic.

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“You think of businesses, and I’m involved in a business which has challenges ahead, it’s about trying to work out what you can control,” McCaw told Sky TV’s Breakdown show last night.

“People can’t go to work and businesses have lost revenue… some of that is out of your control, but you can control your attitude around looking after your people and your family.

“Focusing on the things that are important and what you can have an influence over – whether it was playing rugby or in the context of life – that gives you something to focus on. It may be still tough to figure out how you’re going to navigate through it…

“But the other thing is you don’t want to do it on your own. Everyone – your neighbours, people all around the world – is in the same boat so connecting with them can be helpful. I know sometimes leadership can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be if you share it with people that are going through the same thing.”

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The father of Charlotte, who turned one in December, added that sport in New Zealand and rugby in particular could be given a boost in popularity once the crisis is over, even if the bottom lines are badly affected.

“Every sport is in the same situation – you’re wondering what it’s going to look like once things turn around and what sort of damage is being done through obviously missing competitions. In some ways, rather than looking at what the problems might be now, [look at] what opportunities might open up and there might be some good things come out of it if you can deal with the financial hit.

“You hear sometimes that ‘oh, people get sick of seeing rugby or sport in general’, but it’s amazing when you haven’t got anything to watch how important it is to everyone’s lives from an entertainment point of view. I think from a rugby point of view in New Zealand, it’s shown how important it is to New Zealand.

“Once that opportunity to get back out there in whatever form it looks like, I think people will get excited to be back playing or back watching and in the long run that might be a positive for our game, remembering how important it is.”

McCaw added of Gemma’s predicament as she waits for more information on the Olympics: “It’s pretty tough on the girls, they’re right in the middle of their training and they’re training pretty damn hard.

“The way it’s looking now, it’s potentially not going to happen and there are a lot of things in the air – whether it’s in 12 months’ time and you’re still going to be involved… it’s a tough one to keep training like the Olympics could still be there when in the back of your mind knowing it may not be, it may be in 18 months.

“It does put it in perspective though – being fit and healthy and around your family is the most important thing and you can put aside those disappointments when you have that because many people don’t.”

The former Crusader said this year’s Super Rugby season, suspended and almost definitely cancelled due to the coronavirus, was shaping up as an extremely close one.

“I’ve really enjoyed the games I’ve watched this year,” he said. “The games I’ve seen have been even; I’ve seen the Blues get up in some games and they’ve shown that a bit of confidence can make a big difference. I was really excited to see what was going to happen – you couldn’t really pick who was going to be there at the end which bodes for a good competition and it’s a shame we’ve missed out on that.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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