Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
28 August 2014
I had been to China a number of times before 2014. The main time was for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, then for the Paralympic Games which followed. I was in the country then for nearly two months. I had been for rugby reasons too; Firstly to Shanghai for several IRB 7s rugby tournaments and then there was a similar event in Beijing in 2003. That time the IRB were hoping to impress upon the 2008 Chinese Olympic Games Officials how nicely their game would sit in an Olympic programme. That didn't happen then but it has now. So in 2014 here I was in Nanjing and forgive me if I felt part of a breakthrough rugby broadcast team for the Olympic movement. The Summer Youth Sevens event in Nanjing was great fun. So I made sure I found time to make an appropriate 'location' picture to mark my time in this city. Here I am at the Nanjing Old City Wall with the Olympic rings a backdrop. Construction on the wall was started in 1366.
Even though the All Blacks scored more tries in the four games; the Lions won 2 tests, NZ one test - with a 14-14 draw on this day in Auckland.
This was a game which was begun in New Zealand in 1897 and which became an annual one (with the exception of 1930 and the war years) until 1986, between teams representing the two main islands of New Zealand.
The inter-island series, North Island against South Island, was, through the 1920s right up to the early 1970s, consistently up to international standard. In its heyday, the game was eagerly looked forward to by everyone in New Zealand as it featured a match that often had the look of New Zealand ‘A’ against New Zealand ‘B’ (the ‘A’ team being the side which won!). Sometimes the game did officially double as an All Black trial.
In the 1970s lack of promotion of the game led to loss of interest. The New Zealand Rugby Union, after years of playing the inter-island game at major grounds, started moving it to lesser towns. Public support fell away and towards the end the game was marked by the number of top players who declared their unavailability rather than by those who did turn out. It was sad for New Zealand traditionalists when the match was abolished in 1987 and replaced by a three-way regional trial series featuring teams from three new zones, Northern, Central and Southern.
The last annual game in 1986 was typical of the decline of the North v South game. Played in the smasll town of Oamaru in the South Island, the game had a local college match as its curtain-raiser. When the college game finished, most of the crowds of local schoolchildren drifted away home, leaving the inter-island match to go ahead in front of a much smaller audience. The North Island won the game 22–10, ending the annual series with 49 wins. South had won 26 times and there were three drawn games.
The North-South game did return for special one-off games in 1995 and 2012. The former was an All Black trial and the latter was a fundraising game for the financially troubled Otago Rugby Union.
Ironically the inter-zone series which had followed the cancelled North-South series in 1986 had only three seasons of play before it, too, folded through lack of interest.
Two of Ireland's most famous players were known as Jackie Kyle and Willie-John McBride; what were the two 'proper' Christian names each man had?