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13 May 2016
Maybe 15 years ago, shortly after the great Zinzan Brooke retired from test rugby he did a series of rugby luncheons and dinners around New Zealand. They were sponsored by Ronald McDonald House and at them Zinny regailed the audiences in fine style with his many stories, yarns and rugby tour memories. One of his best memories was how he originally was named Zinzan Valentine Brooke by his family; then later he became known just by the shortened 'Zinzan Brooke' and later still when a great national presence grew in recognition of his enormous All Black talent he was known by young and old by gthe very friendly 'Zinny.'
I was the MC at the Wellington luncheon and I leaned across at one point and asked Zinzan to please sign the menu for my son. (Of course I knew damn well it was for me actually) The great man obliged with all three signatures of the unique 'naming' story he had just told the crowd.
I liked this - as a record of Zinny's quirky manner. And I wonder if it is a rare piece indeed - not worth much in monetary terms but in rugby terms - priceless!
I cannot believe it was so long ago! But right from a VERY young age at Benneydale and Berhampore in New Zealand I knew I wanted to write and talk about rugby - and I've been doing it all my life. (And many more to come I hope!)
Royal Air Force, Leicester and England
85 internationals for England 1984–96
6 internationals for British Isles 1989-93
Leicester, Newcastle and England
27 internationals for England 1992-98
1 international for British Lions 1997
Two dashing brothers who were regular wingers in England’s selections in the 1980s and 90s.
Dealing first with Rory, who was the elder by nearly six years. He was a dashing wing, as befitted his occupation as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. At the end of his career he had played 85 internationals for England, a record total till beaten by Jason Leonard. His total of test tries scored was also an England record, with 49 scored (plus one in a Lions test) boosting his final total to 50. This placed him second on the all-time test try-scoring record, behind David Campese’s 64 tries. Ironically his final tally of test tries came during a time when England was in a period of playing mostly ten-man rugby. Rory Underwood gained a reputation for being underused on occasions but having a rare talent for scoring tries when the ball did come his way.
Rory was born in Middlesbrough and Tony in Ipoh, Malaysia, the brothers were of part-Chinese origins, a rugby rarity in itself, and they spent some of their childhood in Malaysia. Rory’s first cap was against Ireland in 1984. Most of his caps were won on the left wing, but he could play more than competently on the right side (his English record-equaling total of five tries against Fiji at Twickenham in 1989 came when he was playing on the right wing side).
Rory’s Air Force commitments meant he missed several England tours, which meant his test match tally could have been even higher. This popular and dynamic England star was a member of the England team which contested the three Rugby World Cups, in 1987, 1991 and 1995; he played in three Grand Slam-winning England seasons, plus four Five Nations titles. He played in the 1991 World Cup final at Twickenham after scoring four tries in the lead-up games. He also toured with the British Isles to Australia in 1989 and to New Zealand in 1993.
Tony Underwood first came to the fore in 1989 when he appeared for Barbarians Club against the touring All Blacks at Twickenham. He made the England team for a tour to Argentina the following year but did not play an actual test until late in 1992. As his brother Rory was on the other wing (v Canada at Wembley) they became the first pair of brothers to play in an England team since Arthur and Harold Wheatley in 1938.
The forte of Tony’s game was blistering acceleration and a huge confidence to use it well. He toured New Zealand, with his brother in the 1993 British Lions and the two also shared England’s Grand Slam win in 1995. Tony had a second Lions tour, to South Africa in 1997.
At the 1995 World Cup in South Africa Tony had the extremely unenviable task of marking a rampant Jonah Lomu of New Zealand in one of the semi-finals games. Sadly, for England’s hopes at that tournament, and the memory of Tony Underwood as an international player, the video of him being repeatedly trampled underfoot or run around by the giant-sized Lomu, as he went on to score four tries, has been played over and over again. Tony deserved better than this. At his best he was a top player capable of many good things on the field, and like his brother, one of the best wingers England has ever produced.
Who captained the British and Irish Lions on tour to New Zealand in 1977?
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