100 greatest All Blacks ever: 80 to 71
Part three of our ten part series looking at the greatest All Blacks of all time, ranked in order from 100 to 1…
80. Bill Irvine (1923-1930 – 41 matches)
On the 1924/5 Invincibles tour of the United Kingdom, where he and Quentin Donald comprised the two man front row in all four Test matches, Irvine was one of the outstanding performers, playing in 27 of the 30 matches, a remarkable feat for a forward.
Played for the record setting Hawkes Bay Ranfurly Shield side from 1922-26 and in 1927 helped Wairarapa lift the shield from his former provincial union.
79. Nathaniel ‘Brushy’ Mitchell (1935-1938 – 32 matches)
Though often chosen at centre, his most effective rugby on the 1935/36 British tour came on the wing, a team-mate Eric Tindill later describing his play on the flanks as “outstanding”. A relatively big man for the time, Mitchell had speed, elusiveness and determination.
Captained an unbeaten touring side to Australia in 1938. Nathaniel Arthur Mitchell had the distinction of appearing for both Southland and Otago unions when in those years they had a monopoly on holding the Ranfurly Shield.
78. George Hart (1930-1936 – 35 matches)
The outstanding All Black wing of the 1930s. A top class sprinter, who won the New Zealand 100 yard championship title in 1931, it was his inside-outside swerve that gave him his rugby powers.
A prolific try scorer, touching down 42 times in 40 matches for Canterbury and on 28 occasions in 35 All Black matches. Died of wounds sustained when hit by a shell during the advance from Cassino, Italy in 1944.
77. John Gallagher (1986-1989 – 41 matches)
On pure rugby ability, John Gallagher rates high among the best of All Black fullbacks. He took over the position during the 1987 World Cup and over the next three seasons in 18 Tests became an automatic selection in the position and in those years was close to being the world’s best.
The All Blacks’ first truly attacking fullback in the modern sense with the record to match, he scored 35 tries in 41 matches.
76. Olo Brown (1990-1998 – 69 matches)
With his technique and straightness of back, Brown was the cornerstone of All Black and Auckland packs during the 1990s and was rated by scrummaging experts as one of the finest props to play for New Zealand at any time.
His provincial and Test teammate, Sean Fitzpatrick, swore by his prowess and few scrums anchored by Brown were ever bettered.
75. Grant Batty (1972-1977 – 56 matches)
A freakish wing talent. Batty was only 1.65m, weighed 69kg and looked like a halfback, but had speed, elusiveness with the sidestep, swerve or change of pace, a brilliant kick over or around an opponent and a very sound defence.
He could also show bristling aggression and a preparedness to mix it with heavyweight opponents. Scored 109 tries in 142 first class matches, including 45 tries in 56 All Black matches.
74. Steve McDowall (1985-1992 – 81 matches)
At his best in the late 1980s Steve McDowall as a loosehead prop ranked among the world’s best and among the finest in the position produced by New Zealand.
An excellent scrummager, a superb mauler and explosive when he burst frequently into the open, especially in his halcyon years between 1985 and 1990. McDowall was an Auckland mainstay and was involved in all of the province’s triumphs of the late 80s at Ranfurly Shield and NPC levels.
73. Tiny Hill (1955-1959 – 19 matches)
His granite like appearance and unremitting style of play created an everlasting impression as the prototype tight-loose forward of his era.
Hill played in four different positions in the pack but was probably more suited to lock and helped the All Blacks to win two of the most memorable series in history – against the Springboks in 1956 and the Lions in 1959.
72. Bruce McLeod (1964-1970 – 46 matches)
A powerful man physically, energetic and quick around the field, and with a hard-nosed attitude, McLeod played in a period when the All Black pack was consistently strong.
His record shows that he was among the best New Zealand hookers and a central figure in the All Blacks’ record run of 52 matches unbeaten from 1965-1970.
71. Stan Meads (1961-1966 – 30 matches)
Sir Colin Meads considered him the best of his All Black locking partners. Like his elder brother, he was a forward who could play in the lock, flank or No. 8 positions as required.
Strong, mobile and a fine lineout forward, Stan was a member of some formidable All Black packs during the 1960s, which saw off the touring 1965 Springboks 3-1 and the 1966 Lions 4-0. In the late 1960s there were some wise rugby critics who considered Stan to be the equal of his brother.