35 Frank Bunce [1992-1997] CAPS 55

NZ Rugby World - - Green Tea Party -

Frank Bunce had been around the pro­vin­cial rugby scene for a long time be­fore he broke into the test game.

His route to test foot­ball ac­tu­ally came through Samoa when he was picked as part of their hugely suc­cess­ful 1991 World Cup squad.

And it was from there, back in the day when play­ers could switch in­ter­na­tional al­le­giance, that Bunce earned his All Blacks se­lec­tion.

He was 30 years old when he won his first All Blacks cap and if that wasn’t enough to raise a few eye­brows, Bunce be­came bet­ter and bet­ter as he aged into his mid-thir­ties.

He formed one of the best All Blacks mid­field com­bi­na­tions of all time with Wal­ter Lit­tle, which would have a huge in­flu­ence on the All Blacks be­ing so suc­cess­ful in 1996 and 1997.

Bunce was rugged, tough, ac­cu­rate and smart. He could run and pass, and his de­fence was colos­sal.

In that two year pe­riod the All Blacks only lost one game and they played in­cred­i­ble at­tack­ing foot­ball – much of which was aided by the dis­tri­bu­tion and de­ci­sion-mak­ing of Bunce, who was able to do so much to ig­nite a back­line that in­cluded Chris­tian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Je Wil­son.

But per­haps his big­ger in­flu­ence was to kill the as­sump­tion that play­ers are on the de­cline once they reach their thir­ties.

Bunce changed a few at­ti­tudes about older play­ers – made plenty of coaches al­ter their think­ing about veterans and their po­ten­tial value and paved the way for other 30-some­things to be given a fair crack at se­lec­tion.

OLD NEWS Frank Bunce showed veterans can cut it at the high­est level.

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