NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

10 Sir Fred Allen [1946-1949] CAPS 6

Sir Fred Allen’s record as All Blacks coach may never be bet­tered – un­beaten over three years [19661968] both in tests and first-class games. While he had a dis­tin­guished play­ing ca­reer, es­pe­cially with the 1945-1946 Ki­wis, it was for his coach­ing that he made the great­est im­pact.

Ini­tially, it was with the Auck­land team of the late 1950s and early 1960s, who en­joyed a pe­riod of dom­i­nance in Ran­furly Shield rugby.

Upon be­com­ing coach of the All Blacks in 1966, Allen be­came the first gen­uine ‘hands-on’ coach of the side, which has re­sulted in the per­son­al­ity of the coach so com­mon in the game now.

Af­ter see­ing the All Blacks roll the weak Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions side of 1966, he set about fash­ion­ing a changed game for the All Blacks, a game that would utilise changes in the laws that freed up space for the backs to move the ball, and for half­backs and fiveeighths to de­sist from their per­pet­ual line-kick­ing to set up yet an­other li­ne­out.

That was ev­i­denced when he con­vinced the All Blacks hard men of the 1967 team to tour Bri­tain and France that they would en­joy the ben­e­fits of run­ning with the ball in hand when sup­port­ing their out­side play­ers.

Allen ar­rived in Bri­tain promis­ing a revo­lu­tion and he achieved it by demon­strat­ing a style of game that has been ac­knowl­edged for the way it changed per­cep­tions of how rugby could be played.

Play­ers such as Colin Meads, Ken Gray, Brian Lo­chore, Stan Meads, Bruce McLeod, Jazz Muller, Waka Nathan, Kel Tre­main, Chris Laid­law, Earle Kir­ton, Ian MacRae and Bill Davis thrived un­der his ap­proach while oth­ers, in­clud­ing Sid Go­ing, Ian Kirk­patrick and Fergie McCormick were set on the roads to great ca­reers by him.

Sadly, it all came to a shud­der­ing halt in 1968 when he claimed rugby pol­i­tics forced his hand in re­tir­ing early.

9 Buck Shelford [1986-1990] CAPS 22

No one did tough quite like Buck Shelford. He was a hard, hard player – some­one who would go through any­thing to get him­self on the field and stay on the field.

His leg­end was ce­mented on that front dur­ing the in­fa­mous bat­tle of Nantes in 1986 when the All Blacks and France played one of the most fe­ro­cious tests of the modern age.

There re­mains a strong sus­pi­cion that the French team had taken some­thing be­fore kick o – per­haps am­phet­a­mines. Some­thing Shelford him­self be­lieves could be true: “When I came out of the tun­nel and I saw them, I looked into the eyes of many of the play­ers as I walked past them, and their eyes did not say that they were go­ing into a game against the All Blacks,” he told Ra­dio New Zealand re­cently.

“Their eyes just looked like they were on some­thing, and I could not prove it.”

The rel­e­vance of that is that it might ex­plain why the French were as vi­o­lent and ag­gres­sive as they were. What ev­ery­one re­mem­bers is that af­ter 20 min­utes, Shelford was raked in a ruck and emerged with his tes­ti­cles badly ripped.

He had them stitched on the side of the field and in­cred­i­bly played on. It was a story that went around the world and made him a leg­endary hard man – and el­e­vated the aura of the All Blacks.

“I was knocked out cold, lost a few teeth and had a few stitches down be­low. It’s a game I still can’t re­mem­ber... I don’t re­ally want to, ei­ther,” he once said.

But as much as the story be­came one that blokes brought up in bars and winced about, it had a more se­ri­ous side in il­lus­trat­ing that Shelford had a mindset that was ahead of its time in re­gard to his de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­mit­ment to play for the jer­sey.

He couldn’t help but be in­spir­ing given the level of pain he was will­ing to in­vest to achieve his goals.

Such sin­gle-minded fo­cus made him a nat­u­ral leader. He was a player whose ac­tions were strong, bold and defin­ing and there­fore per­fect for oth­ers to fol­low.

Ar­guably he wasn’t a dev­as­tat­ing player as such. He didn’t have nat­u­ral pace or phe­nom­e­nal ball skills. He wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly gifted ath­lete but he made what he had work. He used all that he had to be­come a pow­er­ful, driv­ing No 8 with the abil­ity to make his pres­ence felt through the tenac­ity of his de­fence, the crunch of his ball-run­ning and his abil­ity to put his body in places where op­po­nents teams didn’t want him to be.

That com­bi­na­tion made him a war­rior-type and per­fect for the All Blacks side of that time as they had other nat­u­ral ath­letes and ball play­ers in the pack.

What Shelford brought to the ta­ble was the abil­ity to lift the per­sonal dis­ci­pline of those around him. He also brought a re­newed sense of pride and na­tion­al­ism to the team as it was Shelford, as a proud Maori, who was in­stru­men­tal in in­vig­o­rat­ing the haka.

On a tour to Ar­gentina in 1985, the sub­ject came up: “One of the play­ers came to me and asked me if we should do the haka,”


Shelford said. “I asked Hik [Hika Reid] and he said no be­cause ‘the Pakeha, they don’t know what they’re bloody do­ing’.

“He was right! But we had a talk about it. So, I told the boys, ‘If we’re go­ing to do it, we’re go­ing to do it right. Ei­ther per­form the haka prop­erly or not at all. Vote on it and de­cide which way you want to go’.

“We still had to learn it, though. Hika told me to keep it real sim­ple. He’d been an All Black since 1980 and had to su er through some shock­ing per­for­mances of haka. Some of them were so em­bar­rass­ing.

“I told them, ‘Don’t dis­re­spect Maori. Don’t dis­re­spect our­selves’. So we started train­ing haka. A lot of us grew up with the haka. But for a lot of our white brothers, though, their first and only ex­pe­ri­ence with haka was through the All Blacks. From that time, the un­der­stand­ing of what it was be­gan to in­fil­trate into the All Blacks.

“Haka is about re­spect. Re­spect­ing Maori. Re­spect­ing our­selves. We had to per­form it re­ally well. Some of the early ses­sions were very funny. Those Pakeha fel­las – try­ing to teach them the moves was hard work.”

With pride and re­spect at new lev­els, Shelford in­stilled a work ethic in his team to make them un­der­stand they could never train enough.

Shelford was the man who helped the modern All Blacks re­alise that if they wanted to win each time they played, they had to be pre­pared to go fur­ther than ev­ery team they played. When they were tired, they had to ig­nore it, find an­other gear.

When they were get­ting on top of an op­po­nent, Shelford preached a cul­ture of no mercy and the All Blacks would be­come ruth­less. They would look to de­stroy teams, never let up.

Be­tween 1988 and 1990, un­der Shelford’s cap­taincy, the All Blacks be­came this de­struc­tive, dev­as­tat­ing ma­chine.

They played rugby at pace, with high skills lev­els but also with this ag­gres­sive, re­lent­less de­sire to dom­i­nate op­po­nents phys­i­cally. In 20 tests they won 19 and drew one leav­ing Shelford with the most in­cred­i­ble record as cap­tain.

But to this day, why he was dropped from the side re­mains a mys­tery that has only added to his pop­u­lar­ity with the wider New Zealand pub­lic – a point that is in­dis­putable as even 20 years af­ter he last played, there is an oblig­a­tory sign at most All Blacks tests say­ing, ‘Bring Back Buck’.

8 Sir Brian Lo­chore [1963-1971] CAPS 25

There can’t be many All Blacks who have cast the same amount of in­flu­ence over the New Zealand game as Sir Brian Lo­chore.

As a player he quickly stamped an in­di­vid­ual role on his play at No 8 where his height pro­vided an­other op­tion at li­ne­out time while his sup­port and cover play marked him as one of the top ex­po­nents of his craft.

When cap­taincy was thrown into the mix, sur­pris­ingly in the minds of many when Colin Meads, Kel Tre­main, Ken Gray and Chris Laid­law were passed over, Lo­chore grew quickly into one of the more for­mi­da­ble lead­ers in rugby his­tory, his sides go­ing un­beaten un­til the South African trek of 1970.

In the process Lo­chore led the side through the famed 1967 cam­paign, which re­ju­ve­nated in­ter­na­tional rugby, and it was Lo­chore’s ac­tion in the fi­nal mo­ments of the last game of the tour, against the Bar­bar­ians, that set in train the move­ment which se­cured a try to give the All Blacks an un­beaten tour.

He re­tired af­ter the dis­ap­point­ments of the South African tour, only to an­swer the call to arms when the All Blacks’ lock­ing stocks were dec­i­mated for the third test of 1971 against the tour­ing Lions.

In mak­ing Lo­chore his cap­tain, Fred Allen, the coach at the time, said he re­garded it as one of the best things he did in his ca­reer.

By 1980 Lo­chore took on coach­ing his Wairarapa Bush pro­vin­cial side, lead­ing them from the sec­ond divi­sion of the era into the first divi­sion by 1981, where they re­mained for sev­eral years.

It proved a golden era in the side’s his­tory and el­e­vated Lo­chore to the All Blacks’ se­lec­tion panel.

He re­placed Bryce Rope as coach in 1985 and had to deal with the turmoil of a can­celled tour to South Africa that year and a rebel tour the next.

In the mean­time his Baby Blacks side beat the tour­ing French in 1986 and lost to Aus­tralia by one point in the first Bledis­loe Cup test of that year.

A splin­tered All Blacks team of rebel play­ers and Baby Blacks limped through the sec­ond and third tests of the Aus­tralian cam­paign.

Lo­chore then had to patch dif­fer­ences as the All Blacks pre­pared for the in­au­gu­ral World Cup. He en­joyed the coach­ing sup­port of the coun­try’s two lead­ing pro­vin­cial coaches, Alex Wyl­lie and John Hart, and to­gether they pro­duced a side which claimed the world prize for the first time. Util­is­ing the fit­ness ap­proach of Jim Blair, who had worked with both Can­ter­bury and Auck­land, the All Blacks played a fast, fit­ness-based game, based on the prin­ci­ples Lo­chore had ex­pe­ri­enced un­der Allen’s coach­ing. Af­ter get­ting the Bledis­loe Cup back later in the year, Lo­chore re­tired as coach.

Any thoughts of a com­fort­able time in re­tire­ment were soon for­got­ten as he was sec­onded as part of the 1995 World Cup squad in a man­age­rial role, at the end of which news ar­rived that rugby had gone pro­fes­sional.

Com­pet­ing forces sought to es­tab­lish the fu­ture struc­ture of the game and the tra­di­tional forces were quick to utilise Lo­chore’s stature in rugby, and amongst All Blacks, to ap­ply pres­sure for them to re­main with the New Zealand Union.

Work­ing with Jock Hobbs and Rob Fisher, Lo­chore played his part su­perbly as the play­ers fi­nally joined the fold to cre­ate the struc­ture now in place.

He also served as chair­man of the Hil­lary Com­mis­sion, the govern­ment-funded sports body that ad­min­is­ters sports pro­grammes and fund­ing across New Zealand.

All Blacks coach Gra­ham Henry called him back act as an in­de­pen­dent se­lec­tor be­tween 2004 and 2007.

7 Sean Fitz­patrick [1986-1997] CAPS 92

It won’t mat­ter who comes along in the fu­ture, Sean Fitz­patrick, or Fitzy as he’s uni­ver­sally known, will stand the test of time and al­ways be con­sid­ered one of the great cap­tains of the All Blacks.

His in­flu­ence as cap­tain be­tween 1992 and 1997 was enor­mous. Per­haps one of the best ways to ac­knowl­edge it is to look at the is­sues the All Blacks had in re­plac­ing him as cap­tain. Look at how they fell apart in 1998, the first year they had to go into bat­tle with­out Fitzy.

There were other rea­sons for that, but in­te­gral to their col­lapse was the hole Fitzy left when he moved on.

His ten­ure was not an easy one at first. He had been an All Blacks reg­u­lar since he made the team un­ex­pect­edly as a Baby Black in 1986. An op­por­tu­nity opened and he took it, which was kind of what he was all about.

Fitzy made the most of what came his way be­cause he was grimly de­ter­mined and in­sanely fo­cused. He had a clar­ity in his own head about what he wanted to be and how he was go­ing to get there.

His goal was to be a great All Black and to do that he had to work harder than any­one else who wanted his jer­sey. He had to be the bet­ter player – be pre­pared, or at least show he was pre­pared to do any­thing to wear that No 2 jer­sey.

It was that at­ti­tude that de­fined him as a player and ul­ti­mately led to him be­ing made the cap­tain in 1992, af­ter the All Blacks had been dumped out of the 1991 World Cup semi­fi­nal by Aus­tralia.

“I didn’t think I was good enough to lead the All Blacks,” he says. “In 1992 most of the guys got thrown out of the team be­cause we were full of our­selves and we had to start again.

“You need to be ar­ro­gant to be suc­cess­ful, with a bit of hu­mil­ity, but we had taken that way o the field, and we got too big for our­selves, thought we were bet­ter than we were.

“We got beaten by Aus­tralia in 1991, and then Lau­rie Mains came along and quite rightly didn’t like the at­ti­tude in the team. I was one of the few left when it came to choos­ing a cap­tain.”

Hu­mil­ity was the value Fitz­patrick re­stored to the All Blacks and the one that he in­stilled so deeply it re­mains a core tenet of the cur­rent side. And it was a di cult line to tread be­cause on the field, Fitzy was fierce.

He would rile op­po­nents, get him­self in awk­ward po­si­tions, say a few things qui­etly in the scrum and im­pose him­self in any way he could, yet he man­aged to re­tain re­spect­ful and e ec­tive re­la­tions with ref­er­ees and also spoke noth­ing but re­spect­fully and kindly of his op­po­nents af­ter the game.

What he e ec­tively did was be­gin early the tran­si­tion to the pro­fes­sional age with­out for­get­ting to take the core ama­teur val­ues with him.

Un­der Fitz­patrick the All Blacks be­came more aware of their ex­ter­nal share­hold­ers and their obli­ga­tions to present them­selves well o the field. They were pro­fes­sional with­out be­ing paid and when the game did ac­tu­ally ditch its ama­teur sta­tus, the All Blacks were able to make that tran­si­tion to pro­fes­sion­al­ism with­out a hitch.

They were al­ready pro­fes­sional in their mindset, in their ap­proach and their sense of duty to get the best out of them­selves. Fitz­patrick had laid down that cul­ture, so the only change be­tween 1995 and 1996 was that the play­ers’ bank ac­counts looked a lot health­ier than they had been.

6 Bryan Wil­liams [1970-1978] CAPS 38

‘BeeGee’ Wil­liams’ me­teor-like ar­rival on the rugby scene in South Africa in 1970 was one of the most sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ments from an in­di­vid­ual in the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury.

By the sheer bril­liance he demon­strated play­ing on the wing as a 19-year-old, in a fash­ion rarely seen in the New Zealand game, he stim­u­lated an ap­petite for back play that con­tin­ues un­til to­day.

He scored 14 tries on the tour in­clud­ing a try on de­but in the first test and an­other in the fourth.

Backs had be­come al­most some­thing of an over­sight for New Zealand, but Wil­liams, with his un­par­al­leled speed, was too good to be placed in the strait­jacket that had con­fined many other prospec­tive at­tack­ing backs, and slowly but surely the shack­les were un­leashed.

He may never again have reached the heights he did in South Africa, the ge­nie was out of the bot­tle af­ter all, and he was closely marked for the re­main­der of his ca­reer, but the threat was al­ways there, es­pe­cially when cen­tre Bruce Robert­son emerged to com­ple­ment the run­ning skills of play­ers like Wil­liams, Grant Batty and Stu Wil­son with his pass­ing game. By the time his All Blacks ca­reer ended, Wil­liams had scored 66 tries in all games, a record that stood un­til passed by John Kir­wan who still re­mains atop the lad­der on 67 tries.

His ca­reer looked to be over af­ter he su ered a hor­rific in­jury dis­lo­cat­ing his hip in the first test against France in 1977, but he re­cov­ered and played through­out 1978 against the tour­ing Aus­tralians and on the Grand Slam tour of Bri­tain and Ire­land be­fore his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer ended against the Bar­bar­ians.

Per­haps most sig­nif­i­cantly of all, Wil­liams was the tal­is­man for the emerg­ing Pa­cific na­tions in the game.

One of the ‘honorary’ four who broke the bar­rier of whitesonly play­ers in teams to South Africa, Wil­liams was an em­phatic ad­ver­tise­ment against the stric­tures of apartheid in South Africa and an ex­am­ple to New Zealan­ders of the con­tri­bu­tion play­ers with Pa­cific Is­lands back­grounds could make to the New Zealand game.

He wasn’t the first player with a Pa­cific Is­lands back­ground to play for New Zealand, but with im­mi­gra­tion soar­ing dur­ing the 1960s and 1970s, he was an ex­am­ple for new gen­er­a­tions of play­ers who would make such an im­pact in the game when as­sim­i­lated into New Zealand so­ci­ety.

But Wil­liams’ con­tri­bu­tion was not only on the field. Once re­tired from play­ing, he moved into coach­ing with his Pon­sonby club be­fore coach­ing Auck­land B and then the Auck­land side from 1987 in part­ner­ship with Mau­rice Trapp, in the sec­ond half of the Auck­land team’s golden Ran­furly Shield era.

He ex­tended his con­tact with Pa­cific Is­lands rugby when join­ing Western Samoa’s coach­ing team as tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor in 1991, the same sea­son the Samoans ex­ploded onto the world scene with their fa­mous Rugby World Cup win over Wales. He be­came Samoa’s na­tional coach in 1995.

Through­out it all he con­tin­ued to serve on the Pon­sonby club com­mit­tee and was pres­i­dent of New Zealand Rugby in 2011-2012. He re­mains a reg­u­lar fix­ture at the club while also a great sup­porter of the Bar­bar­ians Rugby Club.

Jonah Lomu may have made a great im­pact on the world stage when he plun­dered tries at the 1995 Rugby World Cup as the game headed into pro­fes­sion­al­ism, but Bryan Wil­liams had an im­pact of sim­i­lar im­port on the smaller New Zealand stage in 1970 when de­layed tele­vi­sion cov­er­age ush­ered his feats into homes for the first time on ma­jor tours.

5 Wayne Smith [1980-1985] CAPS 17

Wayne Smith’s as­so­ci­a­tion with the All Blacks be­gan al­most 40 years ago. He’s had an in­cred­i­ble in­volve­ment with the team, which be­gan when he was se­lected as a first-five back in 1980 and will end in Oc­to­ber when he re­tires from his role as tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor.

He jokes that he was never much of a player, but it’s not true. Smith may have been com­par­a­tively small but he played with huge heart and his head up to see the field.

He had an as­tute tac­ti­cal brain, which al­lowed him to see the space on the field and man­age the game­plan ex­pertly. And it was that abil­ity of his to un­der­stand rugby tac­ti­cally which drew him to coach­ing. That and his nat­u­ral skill to read hu­man emo­tions and con­nect with his play­ers.

While Smith was a good All Black whose con­tri­bu­tion shouldn’t be un­der­val­ued, there is no doubt that it is as a coach where he has had the most i nflu­ence.

He was ap­pointed head coach of the All Blacks in late 1999 af­ter John Hart stood down fol­low­ing the World Cup exit to France. Smith, who had been at the helm of the Cru­saders when they won the 1998 and 1999 Su­per Rugby ti­tles, was a pop­u­lar choice to take over.

He’d shown him­self to not only have a real feel for where the game was head­ing tac­ti­cally, but he was renowned for his em­pa­thetic and skilled han­dling of his ath­letes.

Smith was a man whose rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty pre­ceded him. He told play­ers what they needed to know rather than what they wanted to know, and he held him­self re­spon­si­ble for up­hold­ing the high­est per­sonal stan­dards.

Play­ers re­lated well to that – to his clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion, to his ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions of what they needed to do, and his un­fail­ingly hon­est ap­praisals of the team, the coach­ing sta and him­self.

It was that hon­esty which saw him turn the spot­light on him­self in 2001 when the All Blacks lost, for the sec­ond year in suc­ces­sion, a Bledis­loe Cup test in the last minute.

He told the NZR board af­ter that loss that he wasn’t sure if he was the right man for the job. Sens­ing his un­cer­tainty they made the post con­testable and in the end, Chiefs coach John Mitchell was ap­pointed.

It could have been a disas­ter had that


been the end of Smith’s in­volve­ment with the All Blacks. But it wasn’t. He headed to Northamp­ton and re­turned to New Zealand in 2004 as as­sis­tant coach with Steve Hansen to Gra­ham Henry.

“This man thinks about the game like no one else, and he’s changed the game wher­ever he’s gone,” NZR chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Tew said re­cently. “When Gra­ham [Henry] turned up in 2004 and said my team will be Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen, that cer­tainly cap­tured my at­ten­tion.”

In his new role as as­sis­tant Smith was able to get the best out of him­self. He was able to use all of his skills to build the All Blacks’ at­tack­ing game and be­tween 2004 and 2011 they played bril­liant ball-in-hand foot­ball.

They took their at­tack game to new lev­els, but more im­por­tantly, the play­ers be­gan to live their lives to higher per­sonal stan­dards and many of them say they have Smith to thank for that.

The likes of Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Wil­liams say Smith has had an enor­mous in­flu­ence on their re­spec­tive ca­reers and these are thoughts mir­rored by many of their peers.

It came as no sur­prise then that Hansen pur­sued Smith re­lent­lessly to re-join the All Blacks in 2015. Smith had taken a role with the Chiefs in 2012, but Hansen was de­ter­mined to bring back his good friend for the World Cup. He felt the All Blacks would have a bet­ter chance of win­ning it if they could lure Smith into the role of tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor.

He fi­nally ac­cepted, ini­tially on a oneyear deal.

“It’s been pretty good hav­ing Smithy back in the camp,” said hooker Keven Mealamu on the eve of the World Cup fi­nal.

“With guys un­der­stand­ing their roles, he’s been able to put some good sys­tems in place for us.

“But it’s just been good hav­ing good old Smithy back. Wayne’s got a re­ally good rap­port with the play­ers. He’s a very smart man. He sees a lot of things a player doesn’t usu­ally pick up on and he’s great at get­ting his teach­ing across.

“It’s been re­ally handy hav­ing him back. His at­ten­tion to de­tail re­ally adds to the coach­ing group we’ve had for the last cou­ple of years.”

Given the role Smith played in tight­en­ing the All Blacks’ de­fence at the World Cup, Hansen was de­ter­mined to keep him on and was able to per­suade Smith to sign an­other two-year deal, which will end af­ter the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

“The hole will be big be­cause this is a guy who is a mas­sive con­trib­u­tor and is a great thinker of the game and, not only that, he’s a great mate so there is a lot of trust there,” said Hansen of the di cult job of re­plac­ing his long-time as­so­ci­ate.

“I’ve been lucky to have spent a lot of time with Wayne Ross Smith over the years, firstly as a player be­ing coached by him and, best of all, coach­ing along­side him with Can­ter­bury, the Cru­saders and the All Blacks.

“He’s a man I have a huge amount of re­spect for and it’s been an ab­so­lute plea­sure work­ing along­side him. How­ever, it’s an even greater honour to be able to call him a mate.

“He has an un­re­lent­ing pas­sion for the game, he’s al­ways been in­no­va­tive, pre­pared to speak his mind, and he’s never al­lowed him­self to stop learn­ing. He’s al­ways been will­ing to share him­self with oth­ers and be open to their ideas.

“Smithy has been a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to not only New Zealand Rugby but also world rugby. Wayne has been such a won­der­ful am­bas­sador for our game and our coun­try as well.”

4 Daniel Carter [2003-2015] CAPS 110

Daniel Carter scored more than 1500 test points. It’s there­fore hard to beat that kind of in­flu­ence. Carter won the All Blacks a lot of games with his straight out abil­ity to land pres­sure goals.

His tech­nique was fault­less. His tem­per­a­ment al­most per­fect and in 110 tests no one can re­call Carter hav­ing a truly bad day at the of­fice with his boot Not in the re­ally big games any­way.

There were count­less times when he would land a con­ver­sion from the touch­line to push the All Blacks eight points ahead with time run­ning out.

There were count­less times he would land a long-range penalty to haul the All Blacks back into the game or wres­tle the mo­men­tum back.

There was just a feel­ing with Carter that he was born to land pres­sure goals in the big­gest games and he was never flus­tered, hurried or pan­icked.

But goal-kick­ing was only part of his game. He was a supremely good tac­ti­cal man­ager. Prob­a­bly the best the world game has known.

Carter knew where to at­tack, how to do it and how to de­stroy an op­po­nent.

His game di­rect­ing was in­cred­i­ble – Carter would put the All Blacks in the right place at the right time and knew, al­ways knew, which strings to pull.

He was a tough and ac­cu­rate de­fender, too. Not like the typ­i­cal first-fives of the ama­teur era at all. Carter made his tack­les and he made them well. He was brave, de­ter­mined and fault­less.

The ic­ing on his cake was his run­ning game. When he was in the mood, re­ally on form, he could split any de­fence.

He had pace, agility and aware­ness and against the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions in 2005, he showed just how much. Carter scored 33 points in the sec­ond test in a per­for­mance many feel was the best pro­duced by a No 10 in rugby his­tory.

“As a young player pound for pound he had one of the best fends in the game,” reck­ons All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

“He has a great boot and, as a de­fen­sive player, as a No 10, he has been one of the bet­ter ones. I can only think of a cou­ple who would be up there with him – Jonny Wilkin­son was a great de­fender.

“He’s a great reader of the game like [Stephen] Larkham and [An­drew] Mehrtens and Wilkin­son, I guess. He’s been one of the best, if not the best of all time.”

It was the to­tal­ity of the Carter pack­age that was so in­flu­en­tial. There had been first-fives be­fore him who had in­cred­i­ble spe­cial­ist skills, but none had the all-round bril­liance to their game.

Carter was the first No 10 with ev­ery­thing. He had no weak­nesses, no miss­ing pieces and be­cause of that he set new ex­pec­ta­tions about what coaches wanted from their first-fives.

No one wanted play­ers with a weak part any more. It was no longer okay for a No 10 to think of him­self as a run­ner, or as a game man­ager or as a kicker – he had to be all of those things.

If there was one fi­nal skill that de­fined Carter, it would be his tenac­ity. Be­tween 2012 and 2014 he suf­fered a run of ma­jor in­juries. He broke his leg, his hand, dam­aged a shoul­der and a knee, and he never man­aged to play more than three tests in a row in that pe­riod.

He was writ­ten off by most crit­ics, told he was tool old and bro­ken to make a suc­cess­ful re­turn and yet he fin­ished 2015 as World Player of the Year.


He won that be­cause he was quite bril­liant in the last three games of the tour­na­ment. He cre­ated tries, landed dropped goals and cru­cial kicks and con­trolled all three games ex­pertly.

“He’s en­hanced the jer­sey,” Hansen said. “When you start out as an All Black, that’s one of the great­est things you can do. When you can sit back and say you’ve im­proved it from when you first picked it up.

“In his po­si­tion that’s a re­mark­able thing to do when you think about [Grant] Fox and [Earle] Kir­ton and [An­drew] Mehrtens and so forth. When those guys left they said we couldn’t re­place them and a lit­tle fella from South­bridge has done that.

“He’s done it in a nice way. He’s a hum­ble bloke and he’s added a new di­men­sion to first-five. He’s brought tack­ling.

“The modern day first-five has to tackle now so that’s some­thing that will be a legacy he’s left for all first­fives...he’s done it with a lot of courage, his goal kick­ing has been great and the other thing I ad­mire is he’s gone through a bit of ad­ver­sity in the last cou­ple of years.

“He’s done ev­ery­thing in the game and it would have been easy to just walk away and say enough is enough, but he didn’t, he wanted to fin­ish play­ing well and he’s done that.”


3 Sir Colin Meads [1957-1971] CAPS 55

For 15 years Sir Colin Meads gave his heart, soul and a good deal more to New Zealand rugby on the field and earned the right to be ad­judged the All Black of the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury.

But his in­flu­ence stretched well be­yond his play­ing years and well be­yond your usual rugby pub­lic o the field.

As a player who was sent from the field against Scot­land in 1967, only the sec­ond All Black to be dis­missed, he won the pub­lic’s sym­pa­thy due to the rel­a­tive in­nocu­ous­ness of his o ence, and avoided be­com­ing the recluse that the first player Cyril Brown­lie, who was sent o against Eng­land in 1925, be­came.

Meads thought his ca­reer was over when his or­der­ing o oc­curred, but it could be said it was only the be­gin­ning.

The French had al­ready tried to di­min­ish his in­flu­ence dur­ing their test of 1967, the game be­fore the Scot­land test, when he was kicked in the head by lock Alain Plante­fol leav­ing a gash that re­quired 18 stitches.

But he re­turned to the ac­tion and the All Blacks won a game that many who played felt was their tough­est game ever.

He was in his prime as a player in a for­ward pack that car­ried all be­fore it through the late-1960s. Some of the rugby the All Blacks for­wards played against the Five Na­tions cham­pi­ons from Wales in 1969 was the fore­run­ner of the ball-in-hand play as­so­ci­ated with modern day All Blacks for­wards.

South Africans knew how in­flu­en­tial he was on the field in 1970 and a South African boot, courtesy of cap­tain Skip Hen­der­son of the Eastern Transvaal side, threat­ened to end Meads’ tour when his arm was bro­ken. It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that long-time All Blacks watcher and com­men­ta­tor Win­ston McCarthy claimed that in the five games he played in Africa be­fore the in­jury, Meads pro­duced the great­est rugby he had ever seen from a for­ward.

In­stead of send­ing Meads out of the tour, the bro­ken arm only added to his leg­end as he found an ar­m­guard which al­lowed him to re­sume play­ing, and he ap­peared in nine of the last 10 games on the tour. And when he got home the arm was still bro­ken!

It didn’t mat­ter that he was given the lead­er­ship of the in­ex­pe­ri­enced side that lost the 1971 se­ries to the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions, still their only suc­cess in New Zealand, be­cause he had put the coun­try first in ac­cept­ing the role. There were many who felt he was still ca­pa­ble of tak­ing the 1972-73 team to Bri­tain, Ire­land and France, even af­ter su er­ing a bro­ken back in a mo­tor ac­ci­dent ear­lier in 1972.

How­ever, he wasn’t cho­sen and he be­came the first player to be feted by the NZRFU, as it was then called, when a Pres­i­dent’s XV was as­sem­bled from around the world to play the All Blacks twice in 1973.

Of course, the Pres­i­dent’s XV won the first ‘in­ter­na­tional’ al­though the New Zealan­ders in the side said they were most un­com­fort­able do­ing so.

By the time he had fin­ished play­ing he had amassed 361 games, 55 of them tests, for a to­tal of 133 All Blacks ap­pear­ances while 139 of them were for King Coun­try for whom he played his last game in 1972.

His try-scor­ing was also sig­nif­i­cant – cross­ing the line 81 times in his ca­reer and adding a con­ver­sion to fin­ish with 253 ca­reer points.

Soon af­ter re­tire­ment he be­gan a fundrais­ing con­nec­tion with the In­tel­lec­tu­ally Hand­i­capped Chil­dren or­gan­i­sa­tion and made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the well­be­ing of those in­volved.

And be­ing the la­conic speaker that he was he be­came a favourite to speak at rugby and sports din­ners and lunches up and down the coun­try, and around the rugby world.

He coached King Coun­try for five years be­fore giv­ing up the role when tak­ing on an All Blacks se­lec­tor­ship, al­though that only lasted a year when he trav­elled to South Africa with the rebel Cava­liers side in 1986. Un­pop­u­lar as that was at the time, Meads was never hand­i­capped by it and re­turned to win a place on the NZRFU Coun­cil from 1992-1996.

He man­aged the All Blacks to the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and fa­mously put his stature in the game to use for the modern gen­er­a­tion of play­ers af­ter their first test loss as pro­fes­sion­als over­seas against France in late 1995. The play­ers who felt his wrath in a closed team ses­sion have never for­got­ten his words, and they won the sec­ond test.

Now he’s the sub­ject of a bronze statue in his home town of Te Kuiti, the ul­ti­mate ac­co­lade, to go along­side those of life mem­ber­ship of New Zealand Rugby, a place in the In­ter­na­tional Rugby Hall of Fame, a knight­hood and a tro­phy named the Meads Cup for the Heart­land rugby com­pe­ti­tion, which was pos­si­bly the area of the game with which he most iden­ti­fied.

2 Richie McCaw [2001-2015] CAPS 148

Richie McCaw was by no means the most ta­lented player in All Blacks his­tory. He wasn’t the best ath­lete ei­ther and his nat­u­ral ball skills were okay rather than stun­ning.

Yet he signed off in 2015 as the great­est All Black in his­tory. He signed off hav­ing led the All Blacks to two World Cups and amass­ing a record 148 caps.

How he did it was through his unimag­in­able work rate. No one had a bet­ter at­ti­tude than McCaw. He woke up ev­ery day with a view that he would try to be bet­ter in ev­ery­thing he did.

He never stopped look­ing for ways to im­prove, never cut corners, never gave him­self an easy out. He was also blessed with a one-in-a-mil­lion aer­o­bic sys­tem.

McCaw could run and run. He had a phe­nom­e­nal aer­o­bic base that he had been build­ing from the age of 10 when his dad had sug­gested that he might get more out of rugby if he was a bit fit­ter.

It was advice that hit home. McCaw took to run­ning through the fam­ily farm most days and by the time he was in his mid-teens he had the ca­pac­ity to go for 80 min­utes at full noise.

It gave him the abil­ity to get to places oth­ers couldn’t and to be in­flu­en­tial from the first to last minute. His main skill was his ball poach­ing. He was su­perb at it – a nat­u­ral seven if ever there was one.

His tim­ing was in­stinc­tive, his tech­nique im­mac­u­late and he was brave.

He was also driven like no other player. “When he first started he was bril­liant at pinch­ing ball [but] couldn’t catch, couldn’t pass and couldn’t run, but had a mas­sive de­sire to be good,” says All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

“And I don’t say that dis­re­spect­fully. I just want to point out that he was re­ally good at some­thing, but he wanted to be good at ev­ery­thing and through the whole time that I was lucky enough to be coach­ing him the first thing he would say at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery sea­son was ‘what can I do bet­ter?’ And then he’d go away and work on it.”

McCaw’s record was in­cred­i­ble on ev­ery mea­sure­ment imag­in­able, but best boiled down to this – in 148 tests he didn’t have a bad one. True.

And the All Blacks won 90 per cent of the games in which he played. Truly in­cred­i­ble and yet num­bers alone don’t re­ally get the story told of why he was so in­flu­en­tial.

Ev­ery test the All Blacks’ op­po­si­tion would build a strat­egy to counter the af­fect of McCaw. Their game­plan would be about try­ing to negate his in­flu­ence. That’s why the Wal­la­bies in 2015 came up with the twin open­side pol­icy.

They wanted to play Michael Hooper and David Po­cock to­gether to try to stop McCaw steal­ing so much of their ball.

His leg­end grew through­out his ca­reer and there were times in his fi­nal years when it felt like op­po­si­tion teams were ob­sessed with him and the dam­age he could cause.

But per­haps more im­por­tant what McCaw also did was drive a tran­si­tion within the All Blacks. He changed the cul­ture to one of fe­ro­cious and re­lent­less pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

McCaw and his se­nior play­ers were adamant about ev­ery­one tak­ing greater re­spon­si­bil­ity for per­for­mance. Adamant that ev­ery­one should be re­spon­si­ble for their own prepa­ra­tion and do all that they could to give the team the best chance of win­ning.

Re­lent­less ex­cel­lence – the sort McCaw pro­duced – was un­der­pinned by self-dis­ci­pline and re­straint. A whole gen­er­a­tion of All Blacks came un­der McCaw’s spell and saw the re­wards that awaited them if they took per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for all as­pects of their lives.

He wasn’t pu­ri­tan­i­cal but he was dis­ci­plined. He also man­aged to drive higher stan­dards with­out be­com­ing in­su­lar. The All Blacks of 2015 weren’t just world cham­pi­ons on the field, they were world cham­pi­ons off it, too.

In Eng­land, the All Blacks were en­gag­ing and ac­ces­si­ble. Their abil­ity to mix and min­gle with fans, their de­sire to em­brace op­po­nents and gen­er­ally up­hold the sorts of val­ues that made a na­tion proud, were ap­par­ent the whole tour­na­ment.

It was also ap­par­ent that the de­sire to be like that was driven from the top. The team be­came cast in McCaw’s mould. He set the stan­dards and de­manded that ev­ery­one else fol­lowed. And they did. Out of re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion and also out of pride be­cause McCaw made ev­ery­one feel spe­cial about the in­sti­tu­tion.

That’s his true legacy – how deeply in­grained and un­der­stood pro­fes­sion­al­ism is now and what it means to be an All Black. The statistics he has racked up may in time be bro­ken, but the cul­ture he has helped cre­ate is highly likely to en­dure long af­ter he’s gone.

“He’s a spe­cial man – hum­ble,” said Hansen. “He’s an or­di­nary ev­ery­day bloke. Bright as hell but a bit bor­ing at times. Richie is the best All Black we have ever had and Dan is a close sec­ond,” said Hansen. “The only thing that sep­a­rates them is Richie has played 148 matches at flanker, which is un­heard of – you put your body on the line ev­ery time you go there. The chal­lenge for the other guys now is to try and be­come as great as him and Dan.” HE’S AN OR­DI­NARY EV­ERY­DAY BLOKE. BRIGHT AS HELL BUT A BIT BOR­ING AT TIMES. RICHIE IS THE BEST ALL BLACK WE HAVE EVER HAD AND DAN IS A CLOSE SEC­OND.’ STEVE HANSEN

1 Jonah Lomu [1994-2002]


The All Blacks are a big, big brand. But Jonah Lomu might be big­ger. Cer­tainly out­side of New Zealand the leg­end of Lomu was big­ger than that of the All Blacks.

Ki­wis would have ex­pe­ri­enced this phe­nom­e­non many times – of be­ing in a for­eign land, asked where they are from and once they say New Zealand hear the re­sponse “Ah Jonah Lomu”.

It was that way be­cause Jonah was sim­ply un­for­get­table. He changed rugby for­ever in 1995 – the year, maybe the only one of his adult life, when he wasn’t feel­ing the ef­fects of his crip­pling kid­ney ill­ness.

He owned that tour­na­ment. He was fit and he was sen­sa­tional. He was 120kg of lean mus­cle, hun­gry for the ball and so ca­pa­ble once he got it.

There were games in that tour­na­ment when he was un­stop­pable. Eng­land found that out the hard way in the semi­fi­nal when Lomu scored four tries and hu­mil­i­ated them.

It was hard to re­mem­ber in that game that in the Eng­land side were world class adult play­ers. Hard be­cause Lomu made them look like school­boys and nowhere more mem­o­rably than in the first five min­utes when he charged over Eng­land full­back Mike Catt and made him look like road­kill.

No one had seen any­thing like it be­fore – a wing that size, with so much speed and power. And that he came to be on the wing, was down to the ge­nius of All Blacks coach Lau­rie Mains and his fel­low se­lec­tor Earle Kir­ton.

“We saw this enor­mous tal­ent and we said to our­selves if this guy plays against other for­wards he’s just go­ing to be an­other for­ward who oc­ca­sion­ally might get an op­por­tu­nity in the open to run with the ball,” re­calls Mains.

“But he’s so fast and so ta­lented and so big, where could we best use his tal­ents? And we both agreed let’s try him on the wing. Here we had this huge man who was in­cred­i­bly fast that all we needed to do was get the ball to him as quickly as pos­si­ble with­out too many peo­ple out there mark­ing him.

“The in­struc­tions for our backs were just get the ball to Jonah as fast as you can and back him up. We knew we had some­thing very spe­cial on our hands. What we knew was two things – we had to get him fit and we had to be pre­pared to play a style of rugby that gave him op­por­tu­ni­ties to use this great tal­ent that he had.

“Jonah, I al­ways re­garded as the gen­tle gi­ant and he was a guy that would talk to any­one and help any­one he came across that needed help.”

Leg­end has it that it was dur­ing that game against Eng­land that me­dia mogul Ru­pert Mur­doch de­cided he had to buy the broad­cast rights to rugby. He knew Lomu was an ath­lete who peo­ple were go­ing to want to watch and that he had to get his hands on the rights. And he was right about Lomu.

He be­came a mas­sive star on the back of that World Cup cam­paign. Ev­ery­one wanted a piece of him – even US co­me­dian Robin Wil­liams was ea­ger to meet him – and the of­fers came in from league clubs, other rugby teams and even the NFL.

But Lomu wasn’t in­ter­ested in any of that. All he wanted to be was an All Black. That was his dream and he stayed true to it. And nor did all the fame change him.

He re­mained grounded, true to him­self and the most hum­ble, down to earth per­son any­one could imag­ine.

The fact he re­fused to see him­self as a star was a big factor in why he was such a star as there was so much peer re­spect for him. Just how much be­came ap­par­ent when he died in late 2015.

Two of the more me­morable trib­utes came from former Wal­laby Peter Fitzsi­mons who wrote in the Syd­ney

Morn­ing Her­ald “I al­ways fan­cied, some­how, that how­ever much Lomu was revered in New Zealand, still we loved him more in Aus­tralia.

“Not just for his abil­ity, but for his hu­mil­ity. He was a man who had ev­ery right to swag­ger, but never did. It seemed odd, and not right, that such a force of na­ture should suf­fer from a de­bil­i­tat­ing kid­ney disease, but he never com­plained of it. He just got on with it.

“It seems now, down­right wrong, that one such as he should die so young.

“It was the Catt try, how­ever, that re­mained one of rugby’s most fa­mous and sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments. Watch­ing the match from Lon­don, Ru­pert Mur­doch turned to his lieu­tenant Sam Chisholm, and said, ‘I have to have that player.’ Mur­doch’s com­mit­ment to pro­fes­sion­al­is­ing rugby was stronger than ever, and would com­mit US$555 mil­lion to do­ing ex­actly that.”

And the other was from his All Blacks team­mate Zin­zan Brooke who said “Only a hand­ful of ath­letes have changed the face of a sport – Tiger Woods in golf, Michael Jor­dan in basketball, Pele in foot­ball. Jonah be­longs in that bracket.

“He rev­o­lu­tionised rugby and trans­formed the way rugby was per­ceived and con­sumed. We used to say that once he got the ball and had bro­ken past the first de­fender then we could safely run back to halfway even though he had an­other 25 me­tres and an­other six guys to run through.

“Off the field, he em­braced his re­spon­si­bil­ity of be­ing a global su­per­star with­out ever let­ting it go to his head. He just saw him­self as a cog in a big­ger ma­chine and he never once put him­self as an in­di­vid­ual be­fore the team.”


IN­TEN­SITY Buck Shelford would have to be one of the tough­est and most driven All Blacks in his­tory, which is why New Zealan­ders loved him.

WISE OLD HEAD Brian Lo­chore was an in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain, suc­cess­ful coach and as­tute se­lec­tor.

LEAD­ING THE WAY Sean Fitz­patrick brought pro­fes­sional at­ti­tudes to the All Blacks ahead of time.

GAME CHANGER Bryan Wil­liams opened the All Blacks’ eyes to what they could achieve by giv­ing the ball to the backs.

LONG WALK TO FREE­DOM Wayne Smith has been as­so­ci­ated with the All Blacks one way or an­other since 1980.

NEW BREED Colin Meads played with en­ergy and ath­leti­cism as well as a gen­uine edge.

PEO­PLE’S CHOICE Richie McCaw would be one of the most pop­u­lar All Blacks in his­tory.

BIG BRAND Jonah Lomu was big­ger than the All Blacks.

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