Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
8 May 2015
It is known that 13 All Blacks died in World War I. Three All Blacks died in Flanders Fields, Belgium. This year on a tour with my wife and friends I visited the three headstones of those who fell in Flanders. This one was at the Underhill Cemetery, near Messines in one direction and Ploegsteert on the other. (The Kiwi soldiers and others called it Plug Street in the same way the town of Ypres became 'Wipers' in mis-pronunciation.) The Underhill Cemetery was so named because it near to a spot that Kiwi tunnelers began to dig to undermine the German held town (of Messines).
The Inglewood-resident wing forward Reg Taylor died on the slopes leading up to the town of Messines. You will note his burial site is neat and ordered. That's because he was injured first and taken to a Medical Station. (Which is now a modern farm building you can see beyond the cemetery) When Reg passed away his body was taken outside and buried in an orderly row. By comparison to others he rests in a small but eternally peaceful place. It was moving to go there and see where one of New Zealand's early rugby stars lies now so quietly.
Reg was an All Black in 1913 for two tests against the touring Australian team in New Zealand. By 1915 he was en route to Army service in what was to be called the Great War. As a Lance-Corporal he died on 20 June 1917.
New Zealand's sevens team had won four gold medals in a row from 1998-2010 but on this day at Glasgow in the final New Zealand fell to Kyle Brown's South Africam by 19-12. A great rugby era had ended.
Swansea and Wales
33 internationals for Wales 1890–1901
One of Wales’s first rugby heroes, W.J. (‘Billy’) Bancroft was a brilliant fullback. He was a master at punting and scoring points from place - or drop kicks, and was an elusive runner. He played all his club football for Swansea, where he was idolised as one of its most famous sons.
In a statistical sense he is remembered as the first player to drop kick a penalty goal in an international, v England at Cardiff in 1893, Wales’s first home win over England.
Bancroft played his 33 internationals consecutively – a feat made even more impressive when it is remembered that he did not play against France or teams from New Zealand, Australia or South Africa and had the possibility of only three internationals per year.
Billy Bancroft was small in stature – only 5ft 5in (1.65 m) tall. His brother Jack was also a Welsh international fullback, playing 18 internationals between 1909 and 1914.
Who was the first All Black captain to be red or yellow carded in a test match?