Win a copy of the 1967 All Blacks book.
There have been so many great All Black teams that their exploits can sometimes be lost in a fug. The side of the late Sixties is difficult to forget because not only did they rack up 17 straight wins – a feat bettered only twice since by Tier One nations – but they played with an adventurous spirit that had been lacking in their post-war predecessors.
Alex McKay’s extravagantly-titled book on the 1967 tourists to Europe, The team that changed rugby forever, examines how and why that team took shape as it did.
It started with the manager Charlie Saxton, a 1938 All Black and keen 15-man advocate, and was reinforced by coach Fred Allen, who, being forced to axe one name from his submitted 31-strong squad, decided to drop main goalkicker Mick Williment as a clear statement of intent that tries would carry the day.
The gamble paid off as the All Blacks swept through their tour unbeaten, scoring 71 tries and failing to win only once – a 3-3 draw with East Wales when Barry John’s drop-kick in the final play went wide.
That match in Cardiff was rescheduled because of snow and was part of a series of unexpected hurdles for the tourists that included the shock sending-off of Colin Meads against Scotland, a catastrophic injury to English opponent Danny Hearn and witnessing a fatal shooting en route in San Francisco.
In addition, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease led to the Irish leg of the tour being cancelled and thus depriving the All Blacks of a probable Grand Slam 11 years before Graham Mourie’s team achieved the groundbreaking feat.
Every voice heard
McKay has skilfully woven the individual stories of the players throughout the narrative. Twenty-three members of the squad were still alive when the book was completed and the author interviewed all of them bar Tony Steel – sadly the former wing has dementia.
As well as being a thorough and well-researched record of the rugby played by skipper Brian Lochore and his team, the book evokes the social context of the era. To illustrate how different life was 50 years ago, the Prime Minister’s address and number were in the phone book and a new law was being passed that allowed pubs to open beyond 6pm!
Despite the tour’s success, the All Blacks soon fell back again after Allen resigned in anger after being rebuked by the board for granting a journalist behind-the-scenes access.
New coach Ivan Vodanovich took the All Blacks back to ten-man rugby and series defeats ensued against the 1970 Springboks and 1971 Lions. The latter setback shocked New Zealand into a root-and-branch shake-up that has led to more than four decades of global rugby dominance.
You’ll find a review of the book in the August 2017 issue of Rugby World.
The publishers, New Holland, have kindly provided us with six copies to give away. For a chance to win one, answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Wednesday 9 August.
Who scored New Zealand’s opening try of the 2017 Test series against the Lions?
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