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7 November 2014
Getting set for the resumption of the England v New Zealand rugby rivalry the recent history favours the 2014 All Blacks but it seems the English will present a formidable opposition at Twickenham on Saturday. I'm so glad to be here to see it unfold...
Your keithquinnrugby.com correspondent arrived in London three days before match day. I am here with my wife Anne as co-tour leaders for the Williment Travel Group and Gulliver's Travel. We have 36 very keen New Zealand rugby fans with us. We are all expectantly looking forward to the three internationals which lie ahead for the All Blacks.
Some of our supporter's group, led by the popular ex-All Black captain Dave Loveridge and his wife Jan, had last week been to the first tour match in Chicago, Illinois. All spoke warmly of their rugby experience there. So we are now all together, about 80 of us across two leadership groups and two coach loads, with much to be excited about.
The first matter of anticipation was to see Sonny Bill Williams's name on the starting list for the All Blacks team for Saturday v England. This had been my hope straight away after seeing the additions SBW brought to the New Zealand back line in his time on the field in Chicago. Back in the rugby union game after two years in rugby league he 'ran angles' (a term I usually hate) which added more dimensions to the All Black attacks. No disrespect to Ma'a Nonu and Melakai Fekitoa. Plus the unique off-loading methods of Williams (which used to be called 'passing') he slotted in so smoothly in Chicago offering still more opportunities to go the way of others in the New Zealand team attacks. The honest USA team just couldn't cope with the breadth of the running assaults which came at them. A 74-6 result followed. Sonny Bill scored two tries as well as giving and receiving many assists.
So I am happy with the powerful New Zealand starting XV which coach Hansen will run out. The rest of the players, apart from Williams, have been Hansen's regulars this year. He has resumed his preference for Aaron Cruden to be the starting first five-eighths with Beauden Barrett waiting on the bench to add his genius at the Hansen call-up time.
With this team I expect New Zealand to win. But mark my words - since first coming to Twickenham to see an NZ-England match (back in 1978) every game has been a classic of the highest quality and keenness of contest.
It has been intriguing to read the newspapers since arriving here. Each one I have picked up has been doing major-sized profiles on the New Zealand team and All Black issues. Last night I read a significant profile on Jerome Kaino with details of why he left New Zealand after the 2011 Rugby World Cup and went to Japan - and why he returned in 2014. 'I watched the AB games from Japan,' said Kaino, 'and realised how much I missed the competition of test rugby...I felt I could still add something to the team so I decided to being my family back to New Zealand and compete for the jersey again.'
Another paper ran a big profile on Daniel Carter, written from Chicago; they were seemingly surprised that Carter is not playing on Saturday. I also wonder. We know that the All Blacks these days speak sometimes in expressions of language which test what is truly happening. So I wonder - is Carter hurt again? We shall see I guess when the team to play Scotland in a week is named.
The Daily Mail ran a very deep piece on Kieran Read in which he told of how his wife Bridget 'still has concerns about Kieran sustaining the sort of head knocks which ended the career of people like Leon McDonald.'
Said Read, 'Bridget let me come back (to rugby after having a couple of severe concussions this year) only after she knew I was going to be well looked after by the medics. I've got a great family with two little girls. I was never going to be risking my health.'
Kinda makes me think though. With Richie McCaw also having had the same concussion problems in the past should we wonder - do we have two of our All Black 'leadership group' still under close concussion scrutiny - with the Rugby World Cup now only 11 months away - not to mention a long and healthy lifespan ahead. Are there still major concerns also hidden in 'expressions of language' from the team.? I hope not.
I am told concussion recovery does not 'go away.' It can lead to all kinds of worries in the years ahead.
Still that is for the future; England also has injuries of a similar type; James Haskell and Geoff Parling being just two of their very prominent current starts who have had to lie low in recent times.
But what remains is a significant team still who, with 70,000 screaming 'Swing Low' fervent followers will be ready to give New Zealand a great game to start this end of year UK tour.
• Personal note; Your columnist did his first ever live test match call on TVNZ from Eden Park in 1973. The game was England v New Zealand. England had been hurredly invited to come to New Zealand as a substitute tour after that year's scheduled Springboks tour, had been called off. England played three lead-up games against Taranaki, Wellington and Canterbury and they lost them all. That put the All Blacks into the final tour game as firm favourites. But they were soundly beaten by 16-10. It was a major shock in the rugby world.
The loss meant the end of Ian Kirkpatrick as an All Black test captain.
Six others in the team, including the grizzled Alex Wyllie never played for their country again.
Beforehand, in the TVNZ office there had been much conjecture as to who of us would commentate the game; I got assigned to do the job but Bill McCarthy, later a newsreader, certainly had a following. I vividly remember being accosted after the game by a young bloke who told me ‘the All Blacks would have won if Bill McCarthy had been commentating!’
The result was England first win over the All Blacks for 37 years.
Graham Mourie's touring team was beaten 12-0 by Munster in Limerick; the first win by any Irish team over the All Blacks. And poems, songs, books, films and reunions followed over the years.
New South Wales and Australia
63 internationals for Australia 1984–93
As captain of the superb Wallaby World Cup-winning team of 1991, Nick Farr-Jones became one of the best-known men of modern rugby. His authority as a player and captain was crowned when he received the cup at Twickenham from Queen Elizabeth II and held it high for the rugby world to see. For Farr-Jones the 12–6 win over England was a culmination of a long pursuit of success for him and Australian rugby. Looking back, it can be seen that his career was regularly signposted with success, and not just in 1991.
Two significant records tumbled for him in 1990. First, in his seventh season as the Wallaby halfback, he took over from the great John Hipwell as Australia’s most-capped player in that vital position. He also became Australia’s most-capped captain, the World Cup final being his 31st appearance as team leader. And he and his partner Michael Lynagh cruised past John Rutherford and Roy Laidlaw’s old record for most tests together for any country as a scrumhalf–flyhalf combination.
Nick Farr-Jones made his first tour to Fiji in 1984 and played his first test on Twickenham against England. He was an immediate success, and in combination with Mark Ella played a vital role in the Wallaby team that went on to win a Grand Slam over British countries. Two years later he helped Australia win the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand.
The elegant yet aggressive style of Farr-Jones marked him as one of the world’s most significant modern players. He was possessed of a slick pass (in the Australian scrumhalf tradition of men who had gonr before him; Cyril Burke, Des Connor, Ken Catchpole and John Hipwell), he was a fast and explosive runner, and had a wide tactical knowledge of the game (including the best ways to exploit the blindside). His strength and fitness, enthusiasm and popularity among his fellow players, not to mention his from-the-front style of captaincy made him one of Australia’s best of all time. Many critics also considered him, in his time, the world’s best halfback. Injury around Rugby World Cup time in 1987 restricted his appearances and performances in that series.
Farr-Jones took over the captaincy of Australia in 1988 and although Wallaby teams under his leadership lost a number of series and games, his own form did not diminish. He could count numerous successes as captain, including the World Cup final of course, plus beating England in Australia in two tests in 1988, and beating Scotland, France and New Zealand at least once on their home soil in a little over 18 months.
Nick Farr-Jones also made a tremendous contribution to Australian rugby by his personal example. He has always been a learned rugby thinker and an eloquent speaker. In the face of the enormous popularity of rugby league in Australia he has always represented his game with true style.
After his career as a player was over he also made a significant contribution as a TV commentator and in local politics and business.
In which New Zealand Rugby Province was the Ranfurly Shield resident for the longest duration of time?