100 greatest All Blacks ever: 70 to 61

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    Part four of our ten part series looking at the greatest All Blacks of all time, ranked in order from 100 to 1…

    70. Jock Richardson (1921-1925 – 42 matches)
    A player and leader of quality. A back or side row forward in the old 2-3-2 scrum, Richardson played a typical robust, southern-style game.

    Played 28 of the 38 matches during the Invincibles tour of Australia, Europe and Canada and curiously captained them in three of the four Test matches, despite Cliff Porter being appointed tour captain.

    Described as, “a great forward who was always conspicuous for good work in every game he played. A strong, vigorous rucker, good handler, exceptionally keen in lineouts and always a mighty power with the ball at foot.”

    69. Dave Gallaher (1903-1906 – 36 matches)
    Though the position of wing forward, in which Gallaher specialised, caused some concern to the British, he was one of the 1905/06 ‘Originals’ leading players, making 26 appearances in all.

    An outstanding captain, any doubts over his acumen and leadership skill would have been removed by his authorship with Stead of “The Complete Rugby Footballer”, one of the finest rugby books, proving that under Gallaher and Stead the Originals were a team well ahead of their time in terms of preparation, planning and tactical execution.

    After the tour he became a selector/coach of some powerful Auckland sides from 1906-16 and was a national selector from 1907-14.

    68. Frank Mitchinson (1907-1913 – 31 matches)
    A midfield back or wing, Mitchinson held the New Zealand record for 60 years of 10 tries in 11 tests, until surpassed by Ian Kirkpatrick in 1973.

    A gloriously talented outside back, “he had speed, nip, a superb sidestep and the natural confidence which is reserved for those of exceptional ability,” wrote Sir Terry McLean.

    67. Jimmy Duncan (1897-1903 – 10 matches)
    As a first five-eighth, he captained the New Zealand team on tour in Australia in 1903. This was a formidable side, winning all 10 games in Australia, scoring 276 points and conceding just 13.

    Described as, “a master schemer. From the time he took the field, he never stopped thinking of ways to put off his man, or the whole of the opposing side, by some shrewd move no one could have guessed at.”

    Prematurely bald, he sometimes wore a cap on the playing field, fooling opponents by passing the cap to a support player. Credited with inventing the ‘five-eighths’ system of backline alignment used in New Zealand

    66. Doug Howlett (2000-2007 – 63 matches)
    World Cup disappointments of both 2003 and 2007 notwithstanding, he is entitled to rank among the great All Black wings. His 173 tries in all first-class rugby placed him only behind Sir John Kirwan and Bernie Fraser.

    Though a heavy try-scorer with pace and enough skill to occasionally appear at fullback, he always had to be at his best with the likes of Rokocoko, Sivivatu and Rico Gear on the scene and his early career coinciding with the likes Lomu, Umaga and Jeff Wilson. He appeared in 103 Super Rugby matches, including the Blues’ triumphant 2003 season.

    65. Terry Lineen (1957-1960 – 35 matches)
    Regarded as one of the most gifted midfield backs of the 1950s. New Zealand rugby in the 1950s and early 60s was very much a 10-man exercise and the rare attacking ability which Lineen possessed may have developed even further with a more expansive style.

    For all that, Lineen was a punishing runner who made a big impact. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder late in the 1960 tour of South Africa, a critical blow because he was by far the All Blacks’ most penetrative back. The injury was so severe that, at just 24, he was forced into a premature retirement, having played just over 100 first class games.

    64. Kieran Read (2008-2012 – 47 matches)
    As early as 2006, Kieran Read was recognised as one of five promising players of the year by New Zealand’s Rugby Almanac. A Rugby World Cup winner in 2011 and seen as the long term successor to current All Black Captain Richie McCaw, Read is the archetype No.8.

    A sometimes punishing but always assured defender, safe lineout option and excellent in driving over the advantage line. Added to this is a high skill level which has been often demonstrated in the All Blacks’ high-tempo style of 2012.

    63. Conrad Smith (2004-2012 – 64 matches)
    One of the most consistent performers playing at Test level, combining great accuracy with vision and an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. Entered the Test arena in 2004 as a slightly built centre with the determination to have a big impact in the midfield.

    Eschewing the modern hit-it-up style, Smith demonstrates an ability to exploit the gap, an elusive burst of speed and a clever passing game. Most often used in partnership with Ma’a Nonu, the two hold the current record for most appearances together in the All Blacks midfield.

    62. Duncan McGregor (1903-1906 – 31 matches)
    The Christian Cullen of his day, he scored 34 tries in only 31 matches, including four in the All Blacks’ first ever Test against England in 1905 (a feat emulated 90 years later by Jonah Lomu). Though not overly big, he possessed exceptional pace which made him a potent force on the wing.

    It appears McGregor may have been what was termed a ‘typical wing’, whose only real asset was speed. But in his case his results cancelled out any defensive frailties and made him an attacker who must have been feared by opposing sides. In a brief first-class rugby career he scored 66 tries in just 59 matches, before leaving to join the new rugby league code in 1907.

    61. Joe Stanley (1986-1991 – 49 matches)
    One of the integral figures of an All Black team that produced a 50 match unbeaten record between 1987 and 1990, Stanley had the coolest of heads under pressure.

    Had the strength to stay on his feet and make play for his loose forwards after he had driven over the advantage line and the ability to make the break and link with his outsides, who all scored handsomely. His defence was also top class and many offensive tackles could cause caution or havoc among opposition midfields.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • November 21st 2012 @ 12:39am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:39am | ! Report

      Smoking Joe… he was my favourite player. Such a classy, classy player. His whole game revolved around making space for others. Used the width of the field beautifully. Him and Buck Shelford for North Harbour in the 80s…

      You haven’t mentioned Frank Bunce, so I take it you rate him higher!

      • Roar Guru

        November 21st 2012 @ 12:41am
        abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:41am | ! Report

        “so I take it you rate him higher”

        Not just me Frank. Messers McLean, Howitt, Knight and Luxford also… evidently 😉

        ps. you may be confusing Frank Bunce/Joe Stanley with Zinzan Brooke/ Buck Shelford.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 12:42am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:42am | ! Report

      Howlett was probably the best All Black winger of the 00s actually…

      What will be interesting is who you’ll rate highest in the wing: Kirwan, Wilson, Lomu, or the guy who scored in the 1956 series when he slipped in the mud, but recovered his feet and scored a try. I forget his name… Ron Jarden… that’s it.

      Reid to be top 30 before he retires. Rod Kafer said he’s the best eightman he’s ever seen!

    • Roar Guru

      November 21st 2012 @ 12:46am
      abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:46am | ! Report

      Who would you rate higher of all those wing men Frank?

      I’m genuinely interested because I’m torn and haven’t settled on the final order of those players. Don’t forget there’s 2 Wilsons and Bryan Williams to complicate things also. Be good to get another point of view.

      I’ll be honest and say I personally wasn’t totally enamoured with their ranking s in the “tribute” edition.

      Here’s your chance to make a difference.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 1:13am
        Frank O'Keeffe said | November 21st 2012 @ 1:13am | ! Report

        Needless to say I haven’t seen Jarden, aside from a ew clips of the famous 1956 tour. I think Sam Tauleiei rates him highly and he knows infinitely more about rugby than I do.

        I actually have more rugby Tests on tape and DVD from the 80s than I do the 90s.

        John Kirwan’s the best I’ve seen – that’s the John Kirwan who toured Australia in 1988. That was his peak, as far as I can tell. Kirwan himself rates that just about his best tour. Gordon Bray described his first Test performance against Campo (who played fullback) as a knock-out victory. I remember Fox executed a double-cut-out to Kirwan on the wing, and goodness that was a badly missed tackle from Campo. Campo actually started out strong in the second Test and nearly pulled one out against Kirwan, but in the second half, but half the field to himself, he beat Campo all ends up. And in the third Test he was there to take that pass from Michael Jones. The strength and might of that team really highlights what a wonderful achievement that draw was for the Wallabies.

        – John Kirwan scored the best individual try I’ve ever seen (against Italy 1987). I’d love to see the one he scored against Queensland he rates as better.
        – He did some good stuff in 1992 as well, like scoring in the 2nd Test by breaking through a Tim Horan tackle.
        – His commentary on ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Rugby’ is pathetic.

        In fact, picking the best side of players I’ve ever seen, I’d have Kirwan and Campese as my wings. People remember that 1988 series, but Campo got him back many times.

        It’s good that you mentioned Wilson because I saw his run against the Wallabies (that led to an Ian Williams try) in 1997 not long ago. He made some incredible runs. He was the most complete winger.

        I don’t like talking about Jonah Lomu. People either overrate him or they’re hard on him. Here are a few things I liked about him, aside from the obvious:

        – The way he slid over the ball, gathered it, and passed to Marshall for a try in Wellington 1996.
        – The way he’d hunt for the ball inside.
        – His chasing is actually quite good. He scored another try in the famous Wellington Test chasing a ball.

        Things I don’t like:
        – His run against Mike Catt was incredible in 1995, but two of those four tries weren’t that special I didn’t think. A lot of that was because he team put him into space. In one instance there was a two-man overlap, so it was easy to score. I think Kirwan could have scored two of those tries… maybe three. The Catt incident won’t be replicated, though.
        – HIs defence, Tom Bowman side-stepped him in 1988, for example… N’Tamack made him look silly.
        – That he was playing Space Invaders with Eric Rush while the rest of his side was being poisoned.

        Actually I was more impressed by what he did against France in 1999 than what he did against England in 1995. One of his tries against France had like half the side trying to tackle him! I’d rate that try even better. Jonah’s legacy is definitely helped by the fact he played his best rugby at the two world cups. But he had a short career (not his fault), and in terms of creating something out of nothing, there were better. I don’t mind saying it, I consider Campo clearly a better winger in terms of carrying a side when it needs something magical.

        I’d go:
        1. Kirwan
        2. Jonah
        3. Wilson

        Quick Jonah story: I guy I know in Melbourne paints pictures of rugby players. He once met Jonah and asked him if he wanted a picture of him running over Mike Catt. Jonah said, ‘Nah man, Mike Catt was such a great rugby player, and a lot of people will remember him for that moment. He should be remembered for all the great things he did, because he was a fantastic player.’

        I was kind of struck by his humility and modesty.

        • Roar Guru

          November 21st 2012 @ 1:58am
          abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 1:58am | ! Report

          Cheers, thanks for taking the time. Duly noted 😉

        • November 21st 2012 @ 6:17am
          mania said | November 21st 2012 @ 6:17am | ! Report

          nah i’d go,
          BG williams – what he did vs southAfrica in southAfrica is still the most complete performance by a no saffa winger in the republic
          Wilson – as u say the most complete package winger
          kirwin –

          • Roar Guru

            November 21st 2012 @ 10:20am
            abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

            I hear you,

            but does the fact that as a winger his try scoring strike rate was identical to that of a forward who came a decade before him not sway you to knock him down the list just a little?

            • Roar Guru

              November 21st 2012 @ 3:20pm
              Wal said | November 21st 2012 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

              Ahh the comparing of era’s. Scoring rates for wingers are always going to rely on other factors than just their abilities.
              Rory Underwood would have scored bucket loads more tries outside of England, and Campo would have scored bugger all on the end of a Morne Styen back line.

        • November 21st 2012 @ 4:14pm
          garth said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

          Jonah’s defense sucked big time though, chip the ball over him, run past, score. Laurie Mains should have left him as a loosie.

          • Roar Guru

            November 21st 2012 @ 4:31pm
            Wal said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

            Agree but we probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of some of those tries, still laugh out loud at the poor Mike Catt

        • November 21st 2012 @ 4:20pm
          Jerry said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

          “Tom Bowman side-stepped him in 1988, for example”

          Bit harsh judging him on something that happened when he was 13 years old….

          • November 21st 2012 @ 8:22pm
            Frank O'Keeffe said | November 21st 2012 @ 8:22pm | ! Report

            Heh, 1998, Wellington, Wallabies 27 – 23 New Zealand.

            • November 21st 2012 @ 9:02pm
              abnutta said | November 21st 2012 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

              Christchurch 😉

              • November 21st 2012 @ 9:13pm
                Frank O'Keeffe said | November 21st 2012 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

                You really are a Nutta!

        • November 24th 2012 @ 10:53am
          harryonthecoast said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          Frank: Jarden was great. I saw him play most of his University, Wellington and some AB games as 20-21 yr old in the 50’s. What a hero! That “no try” for NZ Universities against the ’56 Boks was unbelievable

          • November 24th 2012 @ 10:55am
            harryonthecoast said | November 24th 2012 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            ps It was me that was 20-21, not Jarden!!

    • November 21st 2012 @ 12:55am
      mactheblack said | November 21st 2012 @ 12:55am | ! Report

      hi Thanks for this great top 100 of the All Blacks; it makes for a great read especially for a fan from South Africa all the years. Frank Bunce is another stalwart especially his partnership with Little in midfield – cracking pace and cracking defence. Wonder where Little would fit in in the top 100 if he does make it? Conrad Smith, one of the more intellligent centres around, without being overbearing. Reid needs to go higher up – what a footballer in the mould of the great AB NO 8s a long time coming after Collins, Soi’ alo Kaino era. Look these guys were okay, but not up there with former greats like Cowboy Shaw, Mexted, Zinzan (must be top 10 or 1 maybe???). Howlett best of his era, but I’ll rate John Kirwan higher/better. Any place for Grant Batty?

      • November 21st 2012 @ 4:21pm
        Jerry said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

        I think Little has already been mentioned.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 21st 2012 @ 2:32am
      Neuen said | November 21st 2012 @ 2:32am | ! Report

      Wonder if Carlos Spencer will be in some list….

      • Roar Guru

        November 21st 2012 @ 9:36am
        Argyle said | November 21st 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Why not Rhys Duggan is.

      • November 21st 2012 @ 6:25pm
        nickoldschool said | November 21st 2012 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

        Spencer is one of the best SR player i have ever seen but he never had the same form with the ABs. I doubt very much he will make the top 50.

    • November 21st 2012 @ 4:12am
      Offiah said | November 21st 2012 @ 4:12am | ! Report

      Happy to see dougie howlett there,the combination of 11.Rokocoko 15.Muliaina 14.Howlett was always a favourite of mine,even though 11.Lomu 15.Cullen 14.Wilson set the bar high (way high!)

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