Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
31 December 2015
WHILE IN SYDNEY IN 2015 TO SEE THE PRE-WORLD CUP BLEDLISLOE CUP GAME I WAS REMINDED WHILE THERE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BLEDISLOE CUP STORY
IT EPITOMISES WHAT THE RUGBY SPIRIT OF THE TWO COUNTRIES STANDS FOR;
THE STORY CONCERNS THE 1951 ALL BLACK TEAM WHO WERE ON A KIND OF FORGOTTEN TOUR OF AUSTRALIA….
THOSE WERE THE AMATEUR DAYS WITH VERY LITTLE OR NO MONEY IN POST-WAR NEW ZEALAND, AND THE LUCKY PLAYERS IN THE NEW ZEALAND TEAM RECEIVED JUST GIFTS AND PARCELS TO WISH THEM WELL FROM THEIR CLUBS.……
* BEFORE LEAVING ON THE TOUR THE CANTERBURY UNION PRESENTED ITS TOURING ALL BLACKS WITH NEW SHAVING KITS….
* THE CENTRAL OTAGO RUGBY UNION PRESENTED ITS SOLE PLAYER TOMMY LYNCH WITH A WALLET. WITH HIS INITIALS IN GOLD LETTERING….
*AND THE AUCKLAND UNION PRESENTED ITS ALL BLACK PLAYERS WITH TRAVEL RUGS…TO PUT OVER THEIR KNEES TO COUNTER THE COLD OF THE FLYING BOAT FLIGHT OUT OF EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON, TO SYDNEY.
IN THOSE YEARS..........IT WAS THE SAME FOR THE WALLABIES;
BEFORE THEIR FIRST POST-WAR TOUR OF GREAT BRITAIN THEIR PLAYERS WERE SENT A LETTER SAYING;
'* FOR THE UPCOMING 30-MATCH TOUR - YOU WILL BE ISSUED WITH ONE PLAYING GAME-DAY JERSEY TO PLAY IN...... ON NO ACCOUNT MUST YOU EXCHANGE YOUR JERSEY OR PART WITH IT IN ANY OTHER WAY.
'*PLEASE ALSO BRING YOU SOME WHITE SHORTS TO PLAY IN,
*A PAIR OF DARK SOCKS TO PLAY IN
* A TOWEL FOR YOUR POST-MATCH CLEANLINESS
*...AND SOME SOAP FOR YOUR PERSONAL USE....
THAT WAS THE WALLABY TEAM NICKNAMED THE 'CLEAN-SKINS' - THOUGH NOT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE TOWELS AND THE SOAP BUT BECAUSE IN THEIR FOUR INTERNATIONALS ON TOUR THEY NEVER HAD THEIR LINE CROSSED.....
BUT BACK TO THE STORY ABOUT THE 1951 ALL BLACKS.
THOSE ALL BLACKS WERE THE FIRST TEAM TO FLY TO THEIR TOUR FROM NEW ZEALAND.
THEY LEFT VIA FLYING BOAT FROM EVANS BAY IN WELLINGTON AND HAD TO FLY TO SYDNEY VIA LORD HOWE ISLAND....THAT WAS TO ALLOW THE LOW-FLYING PLANE TO REFUEL BEFORE FLYING ON TO AUSTRALIA.
WITH REGARDS TO THE GIFTS TO THE 1951 ALL BLACK PLAYERS MY FAVOURITE YARN IS ABOUT ONE OF THE DEBUT PLAYERS IN THAT TEAM
FROM THE BLUFF RUGBY CLUB, IN THE DEEP SOUTH OF NEW ZEALAND (OUR SOUTHERN MOST RUGBY CLUB)
HIS NAME WAS EDDIE ROBINSON.
THE CLUB WAS DOUBLY PLEASED WHEN ROBINSON PLAYED SO WELL ON TOUR HE WAS SELECTED TO MAKE HIS TEST DEBUT IN THE FIRST TEST IN
IT WAS THEN THE BLUFF CLUB REALISED THEY HAD NOT GIVEN EDDIE A DEPARTING GIFT BEFORE THE TOUR.
SO THEY DECIDED TO PAY EDDIE THEIR ULTIMATE TRIBUTE…..
ON THE THURSDAY BEFORE THE SATURDAY TEST IN SYDNEY, THEY PLACED TWO LARGE BUCKETS OF FRESH BLUFF OYSTERS ON THE OVERNIGHT RAILCAR TO CHRISTCHURCH.
ARRIVING ON THE FRIDAY, THE BUCKETS WERE THEN PUT ON THE OVERNIGHT FERRY TO WELLINGTON WHERE THEY WERE IMMEDIATELY TRANSPORTED TO THE EVANS BAY FLYING BOATS DOCK.
ON FRIDAY THE FLYING BOAT TOOK OFF FOR ITS 7-HOUR FLIGHT ACROSS THE TASMAN, THE JOURNEY EXTENDED OF COURSE FOR THE REFUELING AT LORD HOWE ISLAND….
THE FLYING BOATS FINALLY LANDED ON SYDNEY HARBOUR ON EARLY SATURDAY AFTERNOON….
THAT, OF COURSE, WAS TEST MATCH DAY
AFTER COMING THROUGH CUSTOMS THE BUCKETS WERE PUT IN A TAXI WHICH WAS DRIVEN ACROSS THE CITY, IN DRIVING RAIN, TO THE SYDNEY CRICKET GROUND….
THERE, THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INTO THE OLD GRANDSTAND AND PLACED OUTSIDE THE ALL BLACK TEAM’S DRESSING ROOM.
OUT ON THE FIELD EDDIE ROBINSON WAS HAVING THE GREATEST DAY OF HIS LIFE…HE WAS PLAYING A BLEDISLOE CUP TEST FOR HIS COUNTRY….!!
THE GAME WAS PLAYED IN A QUAGMIRE;…. IN HIS BOOK “WALLABY
GOLD” , THE WRITER PETER JENKINS SAYS THAT SOME OF THE ALL BLACKS TEAM MANAGEMENT HAD SAID BEFOREHAND THE GAME SHOULD
HAVE BEEN CALLED OFF.
BUT I DOUBT EDDIE ROBINSON WOULD HAVE WANTED THAT.
HE PLAYED AND IN THE MUD AND SLIME THE ALL BLACKS THRASHED THE WALLABIES - BY 8-POINTS-TO NIL!!
AND AS THE PLAYERS CAME UP THE TUNNEL AT THE END OF THE GAME
THERE WERE THE TWO BUCKETS ADDRESSED TO EDDIE ROBINSON….
THE BUCKETS WERE TAKEN INSIDE THE DRESSING ROOM, AND EDDIE OPENED THEM....
HE LOOKED INSIDE AND SAW THE SOUTHEN DELIGHTS; THE LUSH BEAUTIFUL OYSTERS FROM HIS HOME TOWN!
SO WHAT DID HE DO? OF COURSE HE POURED THE STILL-BEAUTIFULLY FRESH AND SUCCULENT CONTENTS RIGHT INTO THE BLEDISLOE CUP ITSELF!
THEN LARGE BOTTLES OF BEER WERE POURED IN OVER THE OYSTERS - AND THE MUDDIED ALL BLACKS, AND A BEAMING EDDIE
ROBINSON, CELEBRATED WITH A BEAUTIFUL, RICH, WINNING “BLEDISLOE CUP COCKTAIL”!!
Jack Manchester's All Blacks are beaten 13-0 by England at Twickenham, with the Russian Prince Alexander Obolensky as a winger, dashing in for 2 tries.
Toulouse, Saracens, Gloucester, Auckland and France
72 internationals for France 1994-2007
A powerful, worldly member of the French forward pack through the late years of the 1990s and into the new millennium. At his best there was none who could better this hard-scrummaging prop forward and strong runner about the field. Which is ironic because he began his rugby as an overweight charger with little finesse. It was only after joining the Toulouse club that he fined down into a top rated forward who caught his national selector’s eye.
The thing about Califano is that while he was anchoring his club to three successive French club championship titles as a loosehead prop he was making his early presence as an international player as a tighthead. He had made his debut in France’s epic victories in New Zealand in 1994 when he played as part of a French front row against New Zealand’s redoubtable trio of Sean Fitzpatrick, Richard Loe and Craig Dowd.
Later Califano switched to his preferred loosehead as his test career blossomed and it was from that position that he went to South Africa in 1995 for the Rugby World Cup. He was also in the French team in 1999’s cup though by then back problems and the rise of new young French ‘bulls’ in the front row halted consistent progress.
After 1999 he traveled to New Zealand and had two seasons in Auckland playing in the Super 12 series.
His ability as a running, handling prop forward was never better exemplified than in 1996 when he scored three tries in one game against Romania. Has any test prop anywhere in the world bettered this? I doubt it.
In 2003 his career seemed over but he was recalled for several more games in 2007.
Piri Weepu played 71 tests for the All Blacks; how many times did he play for the full 80 minutes?