Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
8 May 2015
It is known that 13 All Blacks died in World War I. Three All Blacks died in Flanders Fields, Belgium. This year on a tour with my wife and friends I visited the three headstones of those who fell in Flanders. This one was at the Underhill Cemetery, near Messines in one direction and Ploegsteert on the other. (The Kiwi soldiers and others called it Plug Street in the same way the town of Ypres became 'Wipers' in mis-pronunciation.) The Underhill Cemetery was so named because it near to a spot that Kiwi tunnelers began to dig to undermine the German held town (of Messines).
The Inglewood-resident wing forward Reg Taylor died on the slopes leading up to the town of Messines. You will note his burial site is neat and ordered. That's because he was injured first and taken to a Medical Station. (Which is now a modern farm building you can see beyond the cemetery) When Reg passed away his body was taken outside and buried in an orderly row. By comparison to others he rests in a small but eternally peaceful place. It was moving to go there and see where one of New Zealand's early rugby stars lies now so quietly.
Reg was an All Black in 1913 for two tests against the touring Australian team in New Zealand. By 1915 he was en route to Army service in what was to be called the Great War. As a Lance-Corporal he died on 20 June 1917.
A great day for NZ at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Sean Fitzpatrick and John Hart's team silence the ghosts with a 33-26 triumph.
A Maori challenge, or war dance, which is traditionally performed by New Zealand rugby teams before their test matches. Vigorous, aggressive and intimidating, the haka was a ritual dance performed as much to fire up its proponents as to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy. In the rugby context, the haka issues to the opposition the challenge to play hard and well.
The first New Zealand team to perform the haka was the 1905–06 team in Britain. The 1928 All Black team in South Africa did the haka and the South Africans replied with a war chant of their own, being made up on the morning of the game!
New Zealanders know that when All Black teams are made up only of Pakeha players (Europeans), the haka is never performed with the vigour and feeling exhibited by Maori players.
Originally the haka was only performed by New Zealand teams when they were playing away from home, but when Scotland toured New Zealand in 1975 and later during the World Cup games in 1987, the haka was from then on always seen within New Zealand too. It is enormously popular in all the countries visited by New Zealand teams.
After the finish of the 2011 Rugby World Cup who were the youngest and oldest players from all countries to win a World Cup medal 1987-2011?