Tourists have learned from 1998 humiliation, says All Black Marshall

Woodward's 'cauliflower-eared monoliths' swap inspiration for perspiration and sheer bravery to shake off unhappy memories of defeat

Wednesday 02 October 2013 03:36

The All Black scrum-half Justin Marshall believes England's ill-fated 1998 tour, when an under-strength side were thrashed by Australia, New Zealand and the Maori, resulted in long-term benefits.

"England got a lot of flak over that team, but a lot of what they did then has benefited them into being where they are now," he said. "I remember guys like Matt Dawson, who captained that side, played quite well. Those players have come through and been very effective and they've now got a strong side."

Marshall, who captained New Zealand to a series win in England in 1997, said it was "refreshing" to be playing England instead of the annual battles with Australia or South Africa. The scrum-half, who won his 61st cap on Saturday, has gone on record as saying the Tri-Nations championship should be held every two years instead of annually.

Before Saturday's game, on the subject of playing England, he said: "It's really refreshing for us, to be honest, because it's an opportunity to play against the best side in the world. We get pretty regular Test matches over here against South Africa and Australia and they are both within themselves very good sides as well. But to get the opportunity to play England, especially at home, is a great challenge."

Reaction in New Zealand to England's victory bordered on sheer disbelief. In the Sunday Star Times newspaper, under the headline "Gargoyles spit on our pin-up boys", Michael Law wrote: "The English pack are the stuff of nightmares. They're battle-hardened Vikings - all scars, snarls and, in Lawrence Dallaglio's case, snorts. And their captain Martin Johnson has that perpetual sneer on his face - as if he's just found out that every Kiwi has married their sister...

"The rest of the pack were simply giant gargoyles - raw-boned, cauliflower-eared monoliths that intimidated and unsettled. When they ran on to the field, it was like watching a tribe of white orcs on steroids. Forget their hardness - has there ever been an uglier forward pack? Small children who stayed up late to watch this test will be wetting their beds for weeks. But, boy, I'd love to have them playing for us."

The paper's main report was headlined: "White heat, black daze", and was similarly full of admiration for England's defensive qualities, recording: "The All Blacks' potent attacking force was snuffed out by a solid wall of white jerseys - the home side even remained embarrassingly scoreless as England was reduced to 13 men."

The report's opening paragraph, however, spread the blame around: "The All Blacks' first step on their World Cup journey was ruined by a vaunted English rugby defence - and a whistle-happy official."

In the land of Lord of the Rings, the Dominion Post's Toby Robson had another perspective. Under the headline "How low can a hobbit go?", he wrote: "Oh, the horror. Our hobbits support England... The hobbits and other Lord of the Rings stars made a surprise appearance at Wespac Stadium for THAT game. Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Dominic Monaghan were joined by fellow actors Viggo Mortensen, his son Henry, and Bernard Hill.

"But despite considering New Zealand a home away from home, they were supporting England, who fronted up with some last-minute tickets for cast and crew."

Can England's secret weapon have been JRR Tolkien?

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments