Rugby Union: Black beauties: Four of the finest

Click to follow

The Auckland prop Wilson Whineray captained possibly the most successful rugby union touring party of all time when he led New Zealand to the British Isles and France. Out of a total of 34 matches, spanning less than three months, Whineray's All Blacks won 32 games and suffered just one defeat. Their only drawn fixture was the game which finished 0-0 against Scotland at Murrayfield. Whineray's squad consisted of 30 players including such legends as the prolific goal-kicking full- back Don Clarke, the former Harlequins' coach Earl Kirton and giant lock forward Colin Meads. The game against Ireland resulted in the narrowest of All Black victories, 6-5, but Wales and England lost 6-0 and 14-0 while France fared little better, going down 12-3 in Stade Colombes. The overall points tally of 568 for and 153 against, when tries were worth only three points, tells its own story.


On paper, Brian Lochore's All Blacks were even more successful than Whineray's though not nearly as busy. Lochore's men played three of the four home countries and France, but not Ireland, and only one of the squad's 15 matches was drawn - all the rest won. Among their triumphs was a 23-11 win over England at Twickenham, a 13-6 success against Wales and a 14-3 victory over Scotland. The squad again included the legendary lock Meads and fly-half Kirton plus six other survivors from the 1963- 64 squad - Lochore, Waka Nathan, Kel Tremain, Ken Gray, John Major and Chris Laidlaw, the scrum-half who eventually captained Oxford University. It also featured a couple of future luminaries in Sid Going and Ian Kirkpatrick. Interspersed with the results against the home countries was a 21-13 victory over France in Paris. The points tally, for and against, was 294-129.


Ian Kirkpatrick's squad was perhaps the most memorable All Blacks party to visit the British Isles. Interest in rugby had grown enormously as a result of the Lions' triumph in New Zealand in 1971. Kirkpatrick's 32-man squad played 32 matches during their three-month stay and won their first three internationals, against Wales, Scotland and England, though none convincingly. A 10-10 draw followed against Ireland to set the stage for arguably the most famous match ever played, against the Barbarians in Cardiff. The New Zealanders lost that thrilling encounter 17-11, but Kirkpatrick's All Blacks contributed so much to a fantastic televisual contest that they won many friends among the British sporting public. Joe Karam's dead-eyed place kicking and the electrifying running skills of Bryan Williams, Grant Batty and Bruce Robertson would have graced any era of All Black rugby.


Eyebrows were raised when the relatively inexperienced back-row forward Graham Mourie was named as captain of the 1978 All Blacks ahead of more experienced campaigners. But Mourie, with more limited resources at his disposal than was usual for a New Zealand captain, presided over one of the finest sustained performances by a tour party in the game's history which yielded a Grand Slam against the home countries. The most controversial of those victories came in Cardiff when a late penalty was awarded to the visitors in the last minute after Andy Haden and Frank Oliver had both fallen, apparently voluntarily, out of a line-out and the referee Roger Quittenton was persuaded to award them a penalty. Brian McKechnie landed the kick for a victory which is still bitterly protested in the province nearly 20 years later. Out of 18 games, only one was lost and the points record was 364-147.