McCormick, the pocket rocket who hit like a heavy­weight

The Rugby Paper - - Aviva Premiership -

ITALY’S Mat­teo Mi­nozzi – 5ft 8in and 13 stone some­thing – has pro­vided am­ple ev­i­dence this sea­son that con­trary to the gen­eral per­cep­tion you don’t need to be a gi­ant to be suc­cess­ful at full-back and 50 years ago it was Fergie McCormick who did like­wise for New Zealand.

McCormick, below, who passed away this week aged 78, was even shorter and lighter than Mi­nozzi but that didn’t stop him be­com­ing renowned for his tiger­ish tack­ling dur­ing 310 first class games – mainly for his beloved Can­ter­bury – and 16 Tests for New Zealand.

Dur­ing that ca­reer, McCormick scored 2,065 points in­clud­ing 121 for the All Blacks in Test rugby which is re­mark­able be­cause he wasn’t even the best goal­kicker at his club Lin­wood, where Peter Jel­ly­man was al­ways the pre­ferred marks­man. McCormick, none­the­less, for many years held the world Test record of seven penal­ties in a Test match, against Wales in 1969.

Even the Ki­wis had their doubts about McCormick who suc­ceeded the gi­ant Don Clark in the New Zealand No.15 shirt, ini­tially they went for the im­pos­ing Mark Will­ment from Welling­ton be­fore they re­assessed the sit­u­a­tion and ad­mit­ted that some­times a good lit­tle ‘un was bet­ter than a good big ‘un.

“He was an amaz­ing tack­ler,” says his for­mer All Blacks skip­per Sir Brian Lo­chore. “He was an ab­so­lute rock solid full-back and fe­ro­cious in the tackle. I’d say some wings were even afraid of him. His phys­i­cal pres­ence – as a tack­ler – used to cause them to make a bad pass or spill the ball.

McCormick kept play­ing un­til 1975 when at the age of 36 he scored the win­ning try for Can­ter­bury against the tour­ing Scot­land side.

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