Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
20 August 2017
I watched a lot of Colin Meads playing on the rugby field. I am of the age that can say that. Shamelessly I can say I loved the way Colin Meads changed the game for previously lumbering second row forwards, which I was myself, albeit at a club level only. Meads showed us all another way to play.
But having been paid to talk about rugby, and follow the bouncing in my career I modestly claim to be ablre to judge players of a certsain time and type against each other on the field of plzay.
In writing this piece (which first appeared this winter in 'NZTODAY' magazine) I only claim to be able to offer one man's opinion. So here goes with my reflections as swhere I feel Colin Meads sits in the Pantheon of New Zealand rugby stars.
[A further backgrounder; I once shook hands with and had a few beers with the great Billy Wallace of the 1905-06 All Blacks - which I mention only to emphasise how far back I can go to at least talking to old players and weighing up what their opinions were too.]
in 2016 I went on TV1’s breakfast show when it was confirmed the great man of the modern All Black rugby scene, Richie McCaw, had retired. The then Prime Minister John Key was on the same show being interviewed in his regular Monday slot. I was next on.
To finish Mr Key was asked to comment on McCaw's departure and reflect on his place in the game of rugby in New Zealand’s history. The PM replied along the lines that ‘Richie was the greatest’ and he gave good reasons to back up his view. Fair enough. One man's opinion.
I was on next, principally to also talk about McCaw. ‘Do you agree McCaw is now the greatest All Black?’ I was asked.
I think I spoke firmly when I said, ‘No I don’t. To me there are two men above McCaw – they are those who changed the way the game is played in the world. One is Colin Meads and the other - Jonah Lomu.
My rationale was that ‘before Meads came into rugby, physically big men ho wanted to play were automatically put into the forwards to push, scrum and jump in the lineouts. They did little else in the game, except perhaps to trudge to do the same thing at the next set play.
Colin Meads broke that mould. He was the first forward to run fast, athletically, with the ball in his hand, while dummying and swerving. Soon every team in the world had running forwards trying to be like Meads. They still do today.’
I also added that Lomu came out of the Meads manner of making change. Except that Jonah was the first athletic big man to be sent to play in the backs; now every team has Lomu lookalikes.
So Colin Meads in his time was a revelation in the way he played. It must be said he was not a saint or a perfect person, but young watchers of the game these days who see the grainy videotapes of him in action perhaps do not realise that brute play and physical domination, sometimes by force or intimidation, while not approved, often had to be a big part in your team’s chances of winning. That’s how life was then. There were no touch judge flags, no video replays, no TMO’s; just basic retribution handed out on the field if necessary.
Meads was very good at presenting his authority (or unorthodox ball-winning strategies as one writer called it) during any game he played.
But the other very significant thing I love about the Meads legacy is that when his time on the playing field was over in 1971 (and he was an All Black for 15 seasons) he continued to give so generously to the national game and its image.
It could be said that by the number of times he journeyed up and down the country talking rugby to clubs and sporting organisations, by entertaining people as one of the all-time great after-dinner speakers (always with a beer in hand), and helping those in need, via significant, worthy but sometimes tiny and insignificant charities, he perhaps gave more to his country than he may have given to his family or even himself. Colin Meads has made in his life an unaparalleled offering to everything near or around what is, some might say, just about following a bouncing ball.
What I saw in Te Kuiti with the unveiling of the statue of him this year, and with the opening of the Meads Brothers Exhibition which also honoured his brother Stan, then the afternoon’s ‘bit of a tribute do’ dinner (as it was lovingly but officially called), and the crowds blocking the street to see, touch and be near him one more time, was something this absolute fan will never forget.
It's only one man's view - but I say it's Meads #1, Lomu #2 and Richie McCaw for leadership, commitment and longevity, #3.
by Keith Quinn
The wettest day ever saw NZ beat Scotland 24-0 at the Eden Park pool! Deep puddles everywhere. The ABs swam better than their opponents!
The game of Rugby Union has always been a possible game for everyman (or increasingly these days for every woman) who chooses it as their recreation or profession. But the game has also attracted famous people from other walks of life to enjoy rugby’s excitement and action;
[With thanks to Wes Clark’s Internet site, here is a selection from his list of “Famous Players”; with keithquinnrugby.com's additions]
Prince William and Prince Harry; The two played while at Eton, William, rising to the 3rd XV at the famous school.
Prince Edward; played second XV of Jesus College, Cambridge.
Peter Phillips; the son of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, he is the grandson to Queen Elizabeth II. He was an open side flanker on the Scottish Schools team that toured South Africa in 1996. Captained Exeter University to win British University Sports association 2nd XV title.
George W. Bush; US President. Played rugby while at Yale University. Played in the team which famously beat Harvard University in 1968.
Bill Clinton; The USA President; was a second row forward for Oxford University, rising to be in the University’s second XV.
Yoshio Mori; former Japanese Prime Minister, who was a rugby player all his life. He played Golden Oldies rugby well into his 60s. He also revealed he toured to New Zealand with a supporters tour to watch Tri Nations rugby.
George Brown; British Prime Minister 2007-2010. When playing for the Kirkaldy first XV as a 15 year old he suffered a detached retina which led to the permanent loss on the sight in one eye.
Jacques Chirac; The cformer President of France. He played for the Youth team of the Brive Club and later at University.
Winston Churchill; It is known he ‘hated’ playing rugby at Sandhurst Military College.
Idi Amin; dictator of Uganda 1971-79. He was good enough to make the East Africa XV in Nairobi. Played mostly as a lock forward. He was reserve in the East Africa XV v the 1955 British Isles touring team on its way home from South Africa.
Roh Tae Woo; former President of South Korea was an enthusiastic club player.
Donal Spring; Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland. Seven caps for Ireland as a lock forward 1978-81.
Keith Holyoake; former New Zealand Prime Minister who played first class rugby. A hooker for five seasons of first-class rugby for the Golden Bay- Motueka Rugby Union (1925-29).
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera; Marxist guerilla legend in Cuba. Played rugby in his teenage days in Argentina. When he lived in Cordoba his club was Estudiantest. He was so enamored with the game he, and his friends, launched a magazine called ‘Tackle’.
From the film world
Richard Harris; Played in Ireland in two Munster School's trials and represented Munster Under-20s. He loved the game so much he claimed he would give away all of the honours and accolades he won as an actor to have worn the Irish jersey just once. In keeping with his wishes he was buried in his Munster Junior playing jersey.
Richard Burton; Played representative rugby as a youth in Wales; playing at school, University and in the RAF as a flanker. Once on stage doing Shakespeare in a Saturday afternoon matinee, and hoping to learn of the score of a Welsh international match being played at the same time, he demanded of an actor who arrived on stage ‘what news does't thou bring me, good news I hope.’ The other actor apparently mouthed a reply which contained, in a Shakespearean manner, whether Wales had won or lost.
Gerard Depardieu; played a rugby coach in the film “Le Placard” and is a part owner of a Division 1 rugby club in France.
Russell Crowe; New Zealand-born actor who lost one of his front teeth when he was playing rugby as a boy.
Charlie Chaplin; played rugby while at school in England
Hugh Jackman; When attending school in Sydney at Knox Grammar School he was a regular rugby player.
Javier Bardem: He was outstanding rugby prospect in his teenage years in Madrid, Spain. He made the Spanish international teams at Under-16 and under-18 levels as a flanker or prop forward.
Jacques Rogge; President of the International Olympic Committee. A Belgian international player. He sometimes down-played his playing ability, once saying 'if you stay by your telephone long enough it will eventually rinmg and you will be invited to play for Belgium!'
Owen Hart; The famous WWF wrestler who fell to his death in Kansas City in 1999. He played rugby for Western Canada High School, and he met his wife at a rugby match.
Matthew Pinsett; multi-Olympic rowing gold medallist. He was a regular lock for a number of seasons at the English club, Henley. And also at Eton.
Meat Loaf; the singer apparently played rugby at college in the Northwest of USA.
P.G.Wodehouse; Quoted as ‘one of the leading lights of rugby at Dulwich College, London, around the turn of the century. The school still has copies of some of the match reports he used to write for the school.’
James Joyce; played at Belvedere in Dublin.
Sir Edmund Hillary; the New Zealand mountaineer who conquered Mt Everest in 1953. He played rugby at Auckland Grammar School in the 1930s.
Bolger, Jim. The former New Zealand Prime Minister was a senior club prop forward in the King Country rugby union.
Tony O’Reilly; Irish businessman who was once called by some as one of the world’s richest men. He was an outstanding player who played for the British and Irish Lions and for Ireland. In total he played 29 internationals for Ireland and ten tests for the British Isles (in 1955-59)
Warren Zevon; rock singer of ‘Werewolves of London’ fame. Enjoyed rugby so much he acknowledged the Atlanta Renegades club on the liner notes for one of his albums.
David Tua; fought Lennox Lewis for the World Heavyweight boxing title. Tua once played wing three-quarter at school and in club play in Auckland, New Zealand.
Eric Liddell. A Scottish rugby international and Olympic track gold medallist. His life was depicted in the famous film ‘Chariots of Fire.’
Tony Abbott. The Australia Prime Minister was a First Grade player for Sydney University.
.....[This list is by no means full. Please send additions or alterations to email@example.com ]
Which international rugby player who went to two Rugby World Cups also won two Olympic Games Gold Medals and 2 World Championship bronze medals in a chosen 'other' sport?