Richie McCaw surpasses knighthood, appointed NZ's top honour

Richie McCaw has joined an elite group of individuals after being bestowed New Zealand's most senior honour for outstanding service to his country.

The former All Blacks captain has been appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand in the New Year 2016 New Zealand Royal Honours List.

McCaw's rugby accolades are superlative and his popularity among New Zealanders is unprecedented, evidenced by repeated campaigns for the 35-year-old to be knighted.

He is the first rugby player to lead a nation to two World Cups, and also the first to win back-to-back cups.

He is also the most capped player in rugby union history, clocking up 148 Tests and is highly decorated with numerous other titles and awards in the game.

He has also been recognised for his contributions to charitable organisations, with a focus on youth sport and spinal cord injuries.

A humble McCaw continued to knock back suggestions of a knighthood, and today surpasses that with New Zealand's highest honour which he can receive without being called 'Sir'.

The former All Blacks captain was given the Member of the Order of New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

"I'm still pretty young, so to have a title like that, I don't know whether that's the right thing just yet," he told Seven Sharp's Toni Street after returning from the World Cup.

Today, McCaw joins the likes of former prime minsters, an opera singer, architect, golfer and Olympic runner.

Membership is limited to a maximum of 20 living persons at one time and with McCaw's entry to the list, just one spot remains vacant.

He will assume the appointment today on his 35th birthday, making him the youngest person to join the ranks by three decades, tailing former Prime Minster Helen Clark, 65.

The annual honours list is packed full of outgoing All Blacks, including Dan Carter (ONZM), Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock (MNZM).