McCaw, who replaces Tana Umaga, had previously led the side in Wales and Ireland as a stand-in on tour.
At the announcement at his home club, Christchurch FC, he said: "It is a huge honour and a privilege. I'm pretty excited about what lies ahead, especially my experiences for the last 18 months with the All Blacks have been pretty enjoyable.
"They're a good bunch of guys and having the chance to captain that team is something that I'm looking forward to. I can't wait to get amongst it really.
"There's obviously a lot that comes with it but it's a challenge I'm really looking forward to.
"When I spoke to Graham [Henry] and the selectors about it I knew what the story was. They said they had faith in me to do it so I was excited about being given that opportunity."
The 36-capped McCaw will stay in the squad for the second match in Auckland a week later and the trip to face Argentina in Buenos Aires.
McCaw has led the Crusaders back to the Super 14 semi-finals this season, and national coach Graham Henry was resting players from franchises contesting the play-offs.
But the former British & Irish Lions boss has relented to allow the 25-year-old his first taste of captaining his country on home soil.
Henry said: "It would be appropriate for Richie to lead the team in the first test of the year against Ireland."
And he believes that McCaw has the presence and stature throughout the game to replace Umaga.
"It's important that the captain is a quality player and I think Richie is one of the best number sevens in world rugby.
"I think the ability to lead from the front and be a world class player is important for the rest of the players.
"Tana Umaga was a world-class player, guaranteed of selection and Richie just carries on with that sort of philosophy.
"It was an obvious choice and that's why it was very hard to keep it a secret. Richie is a world-class player, highly respected by his fellow players and he's had a lot of success as a captain at provincial level."