Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
10 September 2014
Silly me. I know I should be totally delighted that the All Blacks and Samoa have agreed to play a rugby test in Samoa in July 2015 (and I am) but I heard and saw so many comments from the press conference comments in Wellington which still leave me doubtful that the New Zealand Rugby Union is REALLY as committed, as much as they say, to rugby in the Pacific.
The first thing is; I never saw any comment anywhere that gave due credit and said the game would not have happened had the Campbell Live show on TV3 not got cracking and made it a campaign that embarrassed the NZRU into action.
And the Government too. Remember John Key was on a visit to Apia around that time and obviously wanted to get into 'the game' of saying all the right things to the Samoan people while he was there about the prospects of the All Blacks travelling to Samoa.
So John Campbell and his crews - take a bow!
But how about some of the other stuff from the words spoken at the combined announcement between the NZRU and the SRU in Wellington? I'll write the comments here and then maybe add my own bits. (I can speak modestly here I hope, and say I know a bit about pushing for this game to happen; I first wrote about a NZ v Samoa game in Apia in 1993.)
NZ Chairman Brent Impey; 'The game will be a celebration of the rugby connection between New Zealand and Samoa.' KQ; 'Those are fine words, but we all know there has been no TRUE connection between New Zealand's All Blacks and Samoa - all previous games have been in New Zealand.'
NZ Coach Steve Hansen; 'This game will enhance the links between New Zealand rugby and Samoa.' KQ; 'Same answer as I give to Mr Impey's statement above; plus a reminder that the five previous NZ v Samoa games have been played in Auckland, Napier, Albany (2) and New Plymouth.'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; 'There's been a gap in our playing history, so the opportunity looked right to try and fit it (a game) in.' KQ; 'Correct Mr Tew. The NZRU was formed in 1892 and the Samoa RU was formed in 1924. So at the very least there's been a 90 year gap. But I'll be fair Samoa was only admitted as an IRB member in 1988.'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; 'We've always given Pacific Rugby the respect it deserves.' KQ; 'Really? The All Blacks have never been to Samoa, Tonga or the Cook Islands (remember, the Cooks were one game away from making next years World Cup finals in UK) And NZ has never played a test in Fiji and haven't toured Fiji in any capacity for 30 years. Aren't those countries our neighbours down here under the sun?'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; 'We've battled harder for them (Samoa) around the IRB table than any other country.' KQ; 'That may be so but Samoa has no actual vote for itself on the IRB - they are represented only by a combined 'Oceania' one vote so have little or no chance of making any changes or influencing governance of rugby's affairs.'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; 'A large number of people were born, educated and learned their (rugby) trade in New Zealand and have gone back and then contributed in the Pacific Islands and Alama (Ieremia) is a perfect case in point .' KQ; 'Not a good example to choose. Alama Ieremia (the current assistant coach of Samoa) was born in Apia, had his secondary schooling for four years at Samoa College and played for Samoa in 1992-3. He played first for the All Blacks in 1994.'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; (giving a reply to Dan Parker of the Campbell Show question - 'In the All Black context is this a commitment (to regular Samoa- NZ match)? ' No, this is a one off match. We're in the middle of an international calendar which is written until 2019. We're delighted to fill a gap with this game.' KQ; 'If that's the case then how did the 2015 game fit in? And won't there be another one-off opportunity 'gap' in the next six years?'
NZRU CEO Steve Tew; 'To another Dan Parker question; 'What about a game v Tonga some time too?' 'If John Campbell starts a campaign about Tonga it'll be a long campaign we don't have any other gaps in our schedules...' KQ; 'Two things - that is VERY bad news for Tongan fans; your team was good enough to open the Rugby World Cup on Eden Park in 2011 but according to the NZRU we're very unlikely to ever see the All Blacks in Nuku'alofa.' And that too is very sad.
That ends my questions and answers bit; but...
....can I add in this funny bit also heard yesterday - which comes with a reminder that New Zealand politicians shouldn't get mixed up in talking about rugby matters!
Labour Party Pacific Affairs spokesman Su'a William Sio' 'Many true Samoans have made contributions to New Zealand rugby, like Frank Bunce, Michael Jones, Keven Mealamu, Jerome Kaino, Tana Umaga and Julian Savea.' KQ; 'Well have they? None of the examples mentioned were actually born in Samoa. (Bunce (Auckland), Jones (Auckland), Mealamu (Tokoroa), Kaino (Pago Pago), Umaga (Lower Hutt) and Savea (Wellington.). At the very least five are New Zealanders by birth and one is an American Samoan.'
Born in Stratford, Taranaki and All Black prop Mark Allen was forever known as 'Bull' (named after an American TV character). He became so popular Rugby Park in Taranaki was re-named the 'Bull Ring' for a time.
Rosslyn Park and England
4 internationals for England 1936
One of rugby history’s most colourful characters, Prince Alexander Obolensky was the son of Prince Alexis of Russia. The young prince was born in Leningrad in 1916 but was taken to England the following year, presumably to avoid the Russian revolution.
He was educated at Trent College and Brasenose College, Oxford. ‘Obo’, as he was known, was an elegant and speedy wing and his rugby prowess was quickly recognised. Late in 1935 he played for Oxford in the annual Universities match, the first of three appearances in that famous game.
As a 19-year-old, early in 1936, he played for England against New Zealand at Twickenham. England caused an upset by thrashing the All Blacks by 13–0. Obolensky scored two tries, one of which has become a classic. His diagonal run through the New Zealand defence, as he scored for the second time, can still be admired on newsreel film footage and on YouTube. That game thereafter became known by rugby writers as ‘Obolensky’s match’.
After he left Oxford University his form fluctuated and fell away. He won only four caps, all in the 1935–36 season, but his memory is ensured both because of his colourful family background and his extraordinary, if briefly flowering, rugby talent.
A world record in first-class rugby is still entered in some books under Obolensky’s name. ‘Obo’ toured South America with a 'Rugby Football Union' team in 1936 (presumably an English selection), and in a game against Brazil he crossed for 17 tries, still a record for one game, though perhaps the first-class quality of the local XV might be called into question.
When World War II broke out, Obolensky joined the Royal Air Force. He died when the Hawker Hurricane he was piloting crashed on landing in East Anglia. He was the first of 111 rugby internationals from all countries to lose their lives in the conflict.
How many Wanganui club players were in the combined King Country-Wanganui team which beat the 1966 British Lions team in Wanganui?