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.