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!
In Port Elizabeth the Springboks complete a 4-test rout of Fred Allen's touring team. Ouch! This series really hurt!
Fylde and England
34 internationals for England 1975–82
7 internationals for British Isles 1977–80
William Blackledge Beaumont was just a lad of 11 when England won the Five Nations championship in 1963. When England next won the championship in March 1980, Beaumont was six days past his 28th birthday and was captain of the team. It was England’s first Grand Slam for 23 years, and it ensured Beaumont a prominent niche in that country’s rugby history.
In the 1970s a depression hung over English rugby – five times in that decade it had finished last in the Five Nations championship. The first signs of resurgence came when Beaumont, who had been a lower grade fullback at his club eight years before and an England lock for four years, led the Northern Division of England to victory over the 1979 All Blacks. His quiet style and unassuming manner belied a determination to succeed on the field. These qualities were somehow transferred to the England team of 1980.
In 1980, Beaumont led the British Isles to South Africa, a controversial tour accompanied by anti-apartheid protests in many parts of the world.
He played well and off the field behaved with quiet dignity. Sadly, his Lions team was not able to win for him another notable victory, going down 1–3 in the series.
Beaumont was a lock who had deceptive pace around the field and excellent ball skills. He was a front-of-the-lineout jumper and his strength at scrum time was a grand help to many an English international effort.
His playing career came to an abrupt end. In the 1982 English county final he complained about a head injury, which had affected him in several previous games, and left the field. Beaumont took medical advice and quit the game, right at the peak of his powers. He was only 29 years old.
There was great sadness in English rugby circles, but the ever-cheerful Beaumont carried on, making a name for himself as a TV commentator, then as a TV sports quiz panelist. He was awarded the OBE in 1982 and a CBE in 2008. He also became a rugby administrator, being England’s delegate to the IRB and in 2002 being voted onto the IRB Executive Committee. He has held that position since.
In 2012 he was elected Chairman of The Rugby Football Union (England).
From 2007 the winning team playing in the English County Championship is awarded the Bill Beaumont Cup.
Piri Weepu played 71 tests for the All Blacks; how many times did he play for the full 80 minutes?