A cold, grey Monday at Athletic Park.

1987 – Group Stages

Ireland 6 – Wales 13

I was a ball boy at Athletic Park in the ’87 World Cup, including at the All Blacks vs Argentina pool game.

But, the match I remember most vividly was Wales vs Ireland. I’m behind the line out right at the start of this highlights reel.

This was the match which effectively decided the pool, with Canada and Tonga being the other two teams. The losing team was likely to face Australia in Sydney in the quarter finals.

Not bad for a cold grey Monday in Wellington…

I remember the crowds of fans from both sides, sitting on the lower Millard stand, and coming out onto the grass area between the stand and sideline to chant and wave their flags every time there was a score (there was absolutely no barrier in place, which seems remarkable compared to the security these days).

And, the Welsh rushing onto the field at full-time to celebrate the win.

The players were completely wrecked at the end, and it took them a long time to fight their way back to the tunnel and changing rooms under the old stand.

Contributed by Rowan Simpson

That night in the Pineapple Pub

2003 – Final

England 20 – Australia 17

Today has not been a good day if you’re an English rugby fan, but this story from my good mate Rich, harks back to a happier time. It’s also set in the Pineapple Pub, North London. That’s the pub I began my stag weekend in, led by none other than the Martyn of the closing paragraph, who was my bestman … so it’s a story that’s more than a little close to my heart. – Tim

“I and all my (English) friends were gathered in the pub to watch the final, and for a change, it felt like a competition we could win, so there was an air of anticipation and excitement. My new Australian girlfriend of about 1 month (now wife of 8 years) had for some reason agreed to come and watch the game with us and duly turned up in her green and gold, I think 1 of only 2 openly Australian people in the pub.

The game was close, with points changing hands on both sides and either team capable of taking the win. But then, in extra time, with 26 seconds left to play, this happened…

The pub erupted but I always remember 2 people being in tears – my wife, because she’s a true, blue Aussie and my friend Martyn (not Australian), because he loves rugby a little bit too much.”

Contributed by Rich Pattison

One Shade of Grey – Part the Second

I’m not going to talk about the game. You can watch it here, well, the first 15 minutes anyway. Probably best to stop there.

Let’s just look a little further into who played that game and how they fared post Cardiff nightmare.

The match day 22.

New Zealand: MacDonald, Rokocoko, Muliaina, McAlister, Sivivatu, Carter, Kelleher; Woodcock, Oliver, Hayman, Robinson, Williams, Collins, McCaw (capt), So’oialo.
Replacements: Hore, Tialata, Jack, Masoe , Leonard, Evans, Toeava.

Of those 22, nine played their last All Blacks test covered in grey. The nine:

Byron Kelleher,

Jerry Collins (RIP)

Big Keith Robinson

Carl Hayman

Anton Oliver

Chris Jack

Chris Masoe

Brendon Leonard

Nick Evans

Arguably the greatest loss was Carl Hayman, widely considered one of the best props of all time. He remains playing at a very high level, and at 35 he probably would have been putting his hand up for selection (big Brad Thorn is STILL bloody playing). Okay, he actually signed for Newcastle in April of 2007 and was playing his last tests during the world cup, but who’s to say he wouldn’t have returned for 2011. It worked for Kaino.

Chris Masoe also went on to big things playing in Europe. His path to the ABs was much tougher as he is an openside by trade, and with Richie in place, his opportunities would have been very limited.

Nick Evans was also quite a loss. He hung around but was not selected and left for the UK. The calls for his ABs inclusion at RWC 2011 were loud and vociferous as injuries, took their toll on the ABs number 10s. But who’s to say that he would have nailed that penalty or provided such legend as that of Beaver. It was meant to be.

But the toll of that game and that jersey was probably greater than the nine players who wore grey but never played in Black again. It was interesting to discover that ahead of the 2011 RWC, of the 2007 RWC 30 man squad, eight made the team for 2011, but just one other had played a test in 2011 and presented as available for the next cup (Sitivini Sivivatu). Ahead of the selection for the 2015 RWC, of the 2011 RWC 33 man squad, 12 made the 2015 squad, but a further six had played in 2015 and were available, and three others were still playing super rugby.

The common threads over all three World Cups were;

Richie McCaw

Dan Carter

Keven Mealamu

Tony Woodcock

Conrad Smith

Also of interest is wee Andy Ellis. He was in the squad in 2007. He was also on the bench of the RWC final 2011, playing the final 30 minutes. And he was probably half inch short of the a full fracture of TKB away from a another trip north.

But the grey was never seen again after that match. Adidas duly prepared a nice simple white one, but the ignominy of that defeat means the grey will always haunt the ABs (and adidas) and never, ever will be the ABs alternate.

Interestingly, in 2011, when the French arrived again with darker blue jerseys, they very generously offered to allow the All Blacks to wear black despite the ABs technically being the “away” team for the pool match. What resulted was a clear hiding delivered by a fired up ABs. Fiji learned from that match and did not offer the English the same courtesy. Unfortunately it didn’t really work for them.

Maybe colour is just a perception…

One Shade of Grey – Part the First

Cardiff, 2007

The game that didn’t happen.

Wikipedia says that colour is a visual perception property in humans. But what happened in Cardiff in 2011, many have blamed on a jersey that was anything but All Black.

Now this is a blog about memories from Cups past, and as I’ve said before, I remember being pretty impressed with the grey jersey when it came out. Sartorially challenged as you may think I am (and those who know me, will know that if it wasn’t for the love of a good woman, the jeans, socks & sandal combo would still be on the table), I liked that I could probably wear it causally. I’m not one for wearing supporters jerseys in public, but I thought the grey would show my allegiance a little less ostentatiously.

It had some kinda ugly panels under the arm pits which looked like massive sweat-stains, but it was made of sexy space-age material, funnily enough that drew the moisture away from your no doubt enhancing those sweat-stain panels.

But, it was a departure from our traditional “away team” colours, the simple-yet-effective-white on black, the envy of every team except the original owners (Fiji).

Let’s take a break now to examine some of the other alternate international couture fails that have laughably vomited themselves onto the landscape of international rugby. I won’t go into them too much as a picture in these cases screams a 1000 visually scarred words.

Not particularly offensive but sacrilege none the less.

wales black

And bloody England got one too! (priceless photo, though).

england black

Funnily enough, Straya don’t have an alternate jersey. For some reason no one else in the world wants canary yellow as a jersey (though what would they wear if they played Romania…?).

Anyway, I’ve included this one cause it’s funny. We nicknamed it “The Wallabra”, obviously because of the prominent underwire.


And finally, the worst, without a doubt. It was like watching an advertisement for Ribena.

england purple

But it turns out we didn’t just look a bit average in those jerseys, it may have had a greater affect. Some players never recovered from the wearing that jersey, and it’s a great shame that some the last game some played was not in their beloved black, but the bloody grey.

Part 2

Contributed by Dom “The Mallet” Gibbs



Partying like it’s 1999

14 October 1999, McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield

New Zealand 101 – Italy 3

A game that wasn’t without some touch judge averageness.

Rich Irvine’s tale from the 1999 RWC is a reminder that “Rugby is not really the point of *this* story.”

His story begins….

“This was the 1999 world cup of John Hart, new jerseys and All Black front-row painted jumbo jets, not to mention hubris, over-confidence and pride before a fall. I was living in London at the time and had the ‘pool pack’ of tickets for NZ v Tonga in Bristol, the match versus England at Twickenhamand NZ v Italy up at Huddersfield.

We were a group of five chaps, mostly from Hamilton, all fans of rugby, travelling, drinking and average behavior.”

And continues here.

Contributed by Rich Irvine – @richirvine