Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw has been confirmed as the new captain of New Zealand ahead of their two Test matches against Ireland next month.
McCaw, who captained the All Blacks to a 45-7 win at Lansdowne Road in November, was officially unveiled as Tana Umaga's successor by coach Graham Henry at the Christchurch Rugby Club on Saturday.
McCaw, a 2005 IRB World Player of the Year nominee, said of his appointment: "As well as a great honour and privilege, it is a big challenge to captain the All Blacks. Along with the other team leaders, I hope we can keep improving on the success of the last 18 months and play some exciting rugby. New Zealand has some excellent players right now who are enjoying the game and I'm looking forward to the job."
Henry added: "It's a natural step for Richie to take on the captain's role. He has been an All Black since 2001, he is a world class player, and he has led the team well in previous Test (v Wales (November 2004) and v Ireland (November 2005)). He has also been a highly successful captain with the Crusaders and with Canterbury."
Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan can pencil McCaw down as a certain starter for the All Blacks when the sides clash in Hamilton on June 10. Henry said: "It would be appropriate for Richie to lead the team in the first Test of the year against Ireland."
The Oamaru-born McCaw made his Test debut against Ireland in 2001 and has racked up 36 caps since.
As well as the Hamilton date, Ireland face the All Blacks a week later (on June 17) in Auckland.