Rugby: The Next Richie McCaw Is Called Matt Todd

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIMarch 29, 2011

Matt Todd burst onto the scene during last years ITM Cup with some top performances for Canterbury.
Matt Todd burst onto the scene during last years ITM Cup with some top performances for Canterbury.Marty Melville/Getty Images

New Zealand rugby has a long history of producing great openside flankers. In almost every era an All Black side has boasted an all time great No. 7, one of the factors contributing to their dominance of the game over the past century.

The current side boasts arguably the greatest of them all in Richie McCaw who is also arguably the world's top player at the moment. But before McCaw we saw the likes of Josh Kronfeld, Michael Jones, Graham Mourie, Waka Nathan and Kel Tremain stamp their authority on world rugby.

All were truly great players and all hold a special place in rugby history.

However, with McCaw now in the twilight years of his career, many people have questioned who the next man to wear the No. 7 for the All Blacks will be. Certainly in recent years the back up openside flanker position has been a hard one to fill as there has been no clear leading contender for the role.

It seems now though, that New Zealand has once again unearthed another man who is capable of wearing the No. 7 All Black jersey in the post-McCaw era.

This man's name is Matt Todd.

While it may be a bit early to start drawing comparisons to McCaw, there are definite similarities in the way each played the game at the same stage of their careers, and there is no doubt Todd has the potential to go on to be a very good, if not great player.

Todd burst onto the scene during the 2010 ITM Cup with some outstanding performances for Canterbury. He was undoubtedly the top openside in the competition and was an integral part of Canterbury winning their third title in three years.

His good form was rewarded with a place in the 2011 Crusaders outfit, and after Richie McCaw was ruled out of the early part of the season with injury, Todd was given the chance to show his stuff right from the get go.

And he certainly hasn't disappointed, showing that he's indeed a class player, being arguably the form openside flanker in the competition thus far.

He has a high work rate and is excellent at the breakdown, effecting turnovers in the same way McCaw is able to. To go with this, he has a good running game and is able to put his outside backs into space outside him in the same way McCaw does.

It's still unclear whether or not the All Black selectors will opt to take a relatively inexperienced Todd to the World Cup later on this year, but given the lack of immediate contenders it sure isn't out of the question.

Daniel Braid would be the other obvious contender. But given Braid is also in the twilight years of his New Zealand career, it would make more sense to take Todd and look to build for the future.

The other option would be to take Adam Thomson and use him as the back up openside, but to me it would be a better option to have him as a specialist.

Todd certainly isn't hurting his chances with his current form, and if he continues to play the way he is, he may find himself wearing a black jersey sooner rather than later.

And after that the sky is the limit. If the last six months are anything to go by, we may just be witnessing the break out of the next great All Black flanker.