Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
11 November 2014
As tour leaders of the Wiliiment Sport Travel groups in UK and France this winter (mostly following the 2014 All Blacks) Dave Loveridge and myself, with our wives, had been acutely aware that the inclusion of a 2-day breakaway trip from London to northern France and Belgium would be particularly poignant this year. 80 supporters were down to visit familiar battle sites for New Zealand war historians; places like; Messines, Passchendale and Ypres.
And so we did, standing bare-headed in the chill morning sun in Belgium on the 11th of the 11th of November, as the New Zealand national anthem rang out in front of the Messines Memorial to the fallen New Soldiers who lie in the impeccably kept Commonwealth war graves. Wreathes were laid by both Belgian and New Zealand officials, Binyon's ode was read and silence rang out across the frosty meadows of the nearby farmlands.
Later I was able to reflect that of the 13 All Blacks who died in World War I four were killed in a fortnight more or less right where we were standing this week. The Memorial to the fallen New Zealanders is at the top of the ridge where the great battles took place for the German-held village in June 1917.
As best I can here is a list of the All Blacks and where they fell in World War I. But I publish it with full respect to the memories of many other fine Kiwi sports people of all codes who died in those horror times. And also of the thousands of others who lie in graves, many unmarked, in what is now a serene and very peaceful part of the world.
There was real poignacy for Dave Loveridge who was with us this week. Not only is Dave an ex-All Black test captain, but he is very aware that the first ever 'All Black' team leader Dave Gallaher (of the famous 1905-06 team) is buried only kilometres away from Messines in Poperinge.
And the Reg Taylor story adds more too. He was one of the others who died where we were standing. in Messines in 1917 in fact. He, like Dave Loveridge, was an All Black farmer who originally hailed from Inglewood Taranaki.
RIP the dead ALL BLACKS from World War One; (in alphabetical order)
James Baird - died Messines, Belgium June 7 1917, France
Robert 'Bobby' Black - died France (Battle of The Somme) 21 September 1917
Henry 'Norky' Dewar - died Gallipoli August 9 1915
Ernest Dodd - died France 11 September 1918
Albert 'Doolan' Downing - died Gallipoli, 8 August 1915
Dave Gallaher - died Passchendale, Belgium 4 October 1917 (Buried Poperinge, not far from Messines)
Eric Harper - died Palestine 30 April 1918
James 'Jim' McNeece - died Belgium, June 21 1917 in Battle of Messines Ridge.
Alex 'Jimmy' Ridland - died France, 5 November 1918 (six days before the end of WWI)
George Sellars - died Messines, Belgium, 7 June 1917 (carrying a wounded colleague away from battle)
Reginald Taylor - died Messines, Belgium 20 June 1917
Hubert 'Jum' Turtill - died in France 9 April 1918 - (Was one of the first All Blacks to go to rugby league ('northern Union'). He joined the war with the British Armed Forces)
Frank Wilson - died France 19 September 1916 (Battle of the Somme)
Yes it's true! Number eight forward Greg Cornelsen scores 4 tries as the Wallabies thrash NZ 30-16 on Eden Park.
You cannot have a rugby match without a ball. According to legend, the ball that William Webb Ellis picked up and ran with at Rugby School in 1823 was similar in shape to the oval ball of today. Why Rugby School played with an oval football before running with it in one’s hands was allowed is a mystery, but the evidence is that balls of that shape were used for many years before Webb Ellis attended the school.
It could be that different forms of football were traditionally played with a pig’s bladder as the ball. Any good pig-hunter will tell you that a pig’s bladder, when inflated, is basically oval in shape. When, by 1840, leather covers were made for the bladders, they were fitted to that shape. Thus today’s rugby ball is a direct throwback to the pig’s bladder balls that were kicked around the playing fields of Rugby School early in the nineteenth century. The ‘feet only’ game of association football adopted the round ball on its own.
For years South African rugby favoured using an eight-paneled leather ball, as distinct from the standard four panels used elsewhere. In 1961 it joined the rest of the world in adopting the four-panel ball.
The first rubber bladders were made in 1870. Another significant change to the rugby ball came in 1931 when the rather squat shape of the early ball, which made for easier place-kicking and drop-kicking, was replaced by a narrower, more torpedo-like shape that is able to be passed more easily. The length was shortened by one and a half inches (35mm). A lace to hold the inner bladder together used to be found on every ball, but is now missing from the modern ball.
The main other differences that exist in the modern ball are that they are made out of synthetic rubber and have thousands of raised lumps on their surface. All are designed to give greater grip for the players’ handling. Whether they do aid catching and dispatching in a pass is the subject of endless debate among rugby watchers.
Also used on every ball are various brand names, as companies vie to have their ball used in major televised fixtures and therefore expand brand exposure and sales.
What was unusual about Daniel Dubois' play in the second half of the South West France game v Australia in 1967?