Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
13 January 2015
This story is part of folklore at the Barbarians Club in Auckland, New Zealand. It is one which shows that even in the middle of a feisty rugby test match a mother's pride will still come shining through!
Back in 1930 an excellent Wellington forward Hugh McLean made the All Blacks team to play Great Britain in the third test. No one was much surprised at this as McLean had been in excellent provincial form in recent seasons and two years earlier his strength and sporting capacity had carried him into a New Zealand rowing eight. That crew was bound for the Amsterdam Summer Olympic Games. Sadly they didn't make it as funding eventually was not on hand for such a large group of men to travel so far at one time.
But 'Hughie' got his chance in 1930 to play for the All Blacks. His debut was to be on Eden Park in Auckland.
When the team assembled beforehand and McLean was handled his hallowed black playing kit he expressed surprise that he was to wear jersey number 13. His reluctance was not because of any superstition. That number had not been allocated for him in that day's match programme or in the morning newspaper. In the centre pages he was down to pull on number nine.
But you see, seniority within the All Black team ranks played its part. The crusty veteran W.E. ("Bill') Hazlett of Southland had an apparent aversion to wearing the 'unlucky' number 13. So Hazlett claimed number nine and the new kid was 'told' to wear 13.
Whether this actually bothered Hugh is not known but when the game kicked off it could have been the reason he played so superbly. The young forward in fact dashed in for two tries as New Zealand won 15-10 and took a decisive lead in the series. As the action went on everyone watching soon started talking about the new forward in the All Blacks and how well he was playing. Those were days well before TV of course so even the keenest of All Black fans only had newspaper photos of players faces to go by. Therefore the crowd soon started calling out in praise of the great game which was being played by 'Number nine Hazlett! Go Hazlett!'
Sitting in the grandstand that call irked no one more than Mrs McLean - Hugh's mother.
When her son scored his second try on his test debut she could stand it no longer. When the cheering was dying down the redoubtable Mum rose from her seat. She turned to face the crowd and in her most commanding, if not demanding voice, shouted out to all and sundry - 'That's not Hazlett! That's my boy Hughie!'
That was it! McLean went on to play for the All Blacks until 1936. Was it just desserts that after that season was over Hazlett never donned any All Black jersey again!
On Eden Park on this day in 1966 the All Blacks beat the Lions 24-11 and completed a 4-0 test series whitewash.
Lansdowne and Ireland
51 internationals for Ireland 1974–84
1 international for the British Isles 1977
A dedicated player who became only the third forward from Ireland to reach 50 international appearances. Keane was never a great lineout leaper or scrummager or runner in the open. Rather he played the game in the dark depths of rucks and mauls, where he was as good a grafter as the game has seen. For heart and pride, and the desire to do his utmost for Ireland, he could not be bettered.
Maurice Ignatius Keane first played for Ireland in 1974 in a 6–9 loss to France, but wins in two other matches that season gave Ireland the Five Nations title. In Keane’s fourth international season for Ireland, he made the British Isles team to tour New Zealand, after one of the team’s originals, Geoff Wheel, had to withdraw on medical advice.
Keane was in the Irish team that won the Five Nations championship in 1982 and in the one that shared the title with France in 1983. The other years of his international career were lean: in 52 internationals Keane was only in the winning team 17 times.
Keane had a delightful personality and a wicked sense of humour and many stories, true, exaggerated or otherwise, are still told about him.
In the 1978 New Zealand v Ireland match at Dublin, the Irish were being well beaten in the lineouts, where Keane was marking the All Black giant Andy Haden. The only chance Ireland had to win lineout ball was with their complicated lineout calls, which none of the New Zealanders could decipher. The All Blacks were helped on one occasion when the lineout call went out from the Irish halfback and they heard Keane cry, ‘Oh God no, not to me again’!
Moss Keane was the first Gaelic footballer to play rugby union for Ireland after eligibility rules were changed. He remained an enormously popular figure in Ireland after his retirement from playing.
What age was Gareth Edwards when he became the world’s youngest test captain?