Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
21 January 2015
On hearing the news that Gareth Anscombe, the former New Zealand Under-20 international, had been included in the first Welsh training squad in the 2015 Rugby World Cup year, got me thinking. While it's sad that New Zealand has lost yet another player to a country off shore it is something we have all had to live with.
The thing is, Anscombe has gone 'first' to Wales to try for a start to his international career. Most of the other top All Blacks who have had time in Wales made the transfer towards the end of their playing days. To cash in - I think the term is!
I only had to flick around a few websites for a few moments - and from my own memory bank - to come up with a more than useful All Black team of relatively recent years who have all had 'reasonably extensive' experience of playing professional club rugby in Wales; (I have put Gareth Anscombe's name in an imaginary 'Welsh-New Zealand team here, as I feel sure the young man, given time, would have come through and had time with the All Blacks.)
Actually when you look at this list he sits in good company...but now he is gone forever. A big rugby decision has been taken by him.
So how's this for a good All Black's 'Welsh' team; Ben Blair (Cardiff Blues), Jonah Lomu (Cardiff Blues), Casey Laulala (Cardiff Blues), Regan King (Llanelli Scarlets), Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues), Shane Howarth (Cardiff), Justin Marshall (Ospreys); Xavier Rush (Cardiff Blues), Filo Tiatia (Ospreys), Simon Maling (Llanelli Scarlets), Jarrad Hoeata (Cardiff Blues), Marty Holah (Ospreys), Campbell Johnstone (Ospreys), Tom Willis (Newport Gwent Dragons) and Dave Hewett (Llanelli Scarlets)
On the reserves bench would be players of real quality like; Ofisa Tonu'u (Newport Gwent Dragons), Jerry Collins (Ospreys) and Aled de Malmanche (Cardiff Blues).
Of the above only Hewett had minimal time with a Welsh club team; there are others of true original New Zealand extraction and who were internationals (after playing for Wales) who could have been considered too; Like Hemi Taylor (A Maori who captained Wales in the 1990s), Dale McIntosh (another NZ born Maori who had 454 games for Pontypridd and was capped by the Welsh too); while Brett Sinkinson, Sonny Parker and Matt Cardy were also all capped after good provincial careers in New Zealand.
The coaching staff of this imaginary team could of course bring together the 'old firm' of Graham Henry and Steve Hansen. And Warren Gatland might have a say as well!!
The question is; have I left anyone of significance out of my team?
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On Eden Park on this day in 1966 the All Blacks beat the Lions 24-11 and completed a 4-0 test series whitewash.
New South Wales and Australia
25 internationals for Australia 1980–84
uth Wales and Australia
6 internationals for Australia 1982–88
New South Wales and Australia
4 internationals for Australia 1982–85
Three brilliant Australian aboriginal brothers who, in combination at either school, club, state or international level, dazzled and delighted rugby crowds with their backline interplay.
The Ella brothers came from a modest family of 12 children in La Perouse, Sydney. Glen and Mark were twins and Gary was 13 months younger. Mark was a flyhalf possessed of brilliant balance, speed and intuition; Glen, a fullback who sometimes played as a centre, and Gary, a long-striding runner, who was used mostly as centre and occasionally on the wing.
The brothers first made headlines as schoolboys. Their uncanny understanding of each other’s play brought suggestions of telepathic aboriginal powers – when viewing some of their tries and plays it was often hard to argue otherwise. From Matraville High in suburban Sydney, all three made the 1977–78 Australian Secondary Schools touring team which went on a nine-week tour of the United Kingdom, France, Japan and the Netherlands.
The team went unbeaten in 16 games. Australian writers were quick to point out that only the 1924–25 All Black ‘Invincible’ team had done as well on tour in Britain. The team also scored 110 tries on the tour (averaging nearly eight a game), and between them the Ella brothers scored a quarter of all the points.
Everywhere the team went the Ella brothers were high in curiosity value for the media. Nor did they let the reporters down. They became stars of the Australian rugby scene before they had even left school. It was inevitable that in time their talents would be utilised in the Wallabies.
Mark was the first to make the grade. After having shone for his club Randwick, Sydney and New South Wales, he toured to Argentina with the Wallabies in 1979 and thereafter became a regular and vital member of Australian test sides. He was made captain for the Wallabies tour to New Zealand in 1982, when aged only 23, and led the team until 1984 when a new coach, Alan Jones, preferred Andrew Slack. That did not deter Ella from playing brilliant rugby and on the 1984 tour of Britain, though seemingly at odds on a personal level with Jones, he was one of the team’s brightest stars. He became the first touring player in Britain to score a try in each of the home internationals, a feat he had also achieved on the schoolboys’ tour seven years earlier (though that team did not play Scotland).
Mark Ella retired at the age of 25, having played 25 internationals, amid rumours that he could no longer tolerate playing in teams coached by Alan Jones. He resisted many lucrative offers to play rugby league and settled into a life as a businessman, TV commentator and newspaper columnist. He returned to Sydney club rugby in 1989 and also played and coached in Italy.
Twin brother Glen and younger brother Gary also played for Randwick in Sydney and both joined Mark in the Wallabies for the 1981–82 tour of Britain. Injuries damaged both their chances of playing consistently on that tour and neither joined Mark in the international matches.
The trio’s best tour for their country was to New Zealand in 1982. Mark was captain and, along with David Campese, he was the team’s star player. Glen was an excellent fullback but could not force his way into the test team ahead of Roger Gould. Gary’s form was such that he made the first two tests at centre. Once again the brothers’ consummate passing and mutual understanding surprised opposition backlines and astonished the hard-to-please New Zealand crowds.
Surprisingly the three Ella brothers never played together in a test match. Gary retired with a knee injury in 1986 and Glen bowed out after being part of yet another Randwick championship winning team in 1987. he became a top coach, leading Australia on many seven aside trips as well as being assistant coach for the Wallabies. Gary returned to play one test against the All Blacks in 1988.
Former Wallaby coach Bob Dwyer, who had coached the trio for Randwick and Australia, said ‘the influence of the Ella brothers on Australian rugby has been absolutely immeasurable.’ They were best summed up by the word that was coined by Australian journalists to describe their play – ‘Ellamagic!’
Who was the New Zealand test cricketer who played one rugby test for England?