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100 greatest All Blacks ever: 40 to 31

Roar Guru
21st November, 2012
63
1722 Reads

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

40. Graham Mourie (1976-1982 – 61 matches)
A fast and constructive flanker and an intelligent, inspiring captain, Mourie was a creator as well as a destroyer as a flanker. His anticipation was often uncanny, he could tackle with the best but was the ideal link between backs and forwards in scoring movements.

As a captain he could analyse the opposition to find their weaknesses and was a master tactician and organiser on the field.

In 1980, after a fine display in the Welsh Centenary match at Cardiff Arms, Cliff Morgan said, “I do not mind going to my maker because today I saw, from Graham Mourie, the greatest loose forward display the world could ever wish to see.”

39. Josh Kronfeld (1995-2000 – 56 matches)
One of three virtual newcomers to the All Blacks who, despite their youth and inexperience, played dominant roles in the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. In the absence of Michael Jones, Kronfeld excelled as a tearaway openside flanker, bringing a dimension to the position the All Blacks had not had since Jones heyday in 1987-89.

Invaluable with his speed to the breakdowns, mastering much to the dismay of opposing coaches the law requirement to remain on or regain his feet. Other than briefly losing his starting place in 1997 to Andrew Blowers and occasional absence through injuries, to which his explosive style made him prone, Kronfeld was a first choice All Black through until 2000.

38. Tana Umaga (1997-2005)
Tana Umaga established himself as a true folk hero and widely acclaimed as one of the best All Black three-quarters, either as a wing or centre, of any age. Made his All Black debut as a wing in 1997 and after splendid form in the 1999 Super Rugby campaign he was an automatic first choice Test selection, continuing as a wing but moving into the midfield.

In 2004 Umaga’s career reached a pinnacle, being named captain, a role in which he thrived. In 2005 he was an inspiring leader against the Lions in a 3-0 sweep. He was captain in 21 tests, of which 18 were victories.

37. Jonah Lomu (1994-2002 – 73 matches)
Jonah Lomu has suffered some harsh assessments of his ability. Lomu was at his playing best in only two seasons, the World Cup years of 1995 and 1999, when he emerged as the dominating personality of each tournament. In his two glory seasons of 1995 and 1999, Lomu was sensational, with a physical presence no one has ever quite managed before or since.

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At his best, which was when he first burst onto the New Zealand rugby scene as an 18-year old, Lomu was virtually unstoppable. At 1.96m and up to 120kgs, given space and room he was a nightmare for often much smaller defenders. In 185 first-class matches he scored 122 tries.

36. Bryan Williams (1970-1978 – 113 matches)
As a player, Williams – an automatic Test selection for the All Blacks through the 1970s – rates as one of the greatest wings produced by New Zealand. He had pace, power and a prodigious sidestep which, in 1970, catapulted him into the All Blacks for the tour of South Africa, where he was a sensation, scoring 14 tries in his 13 matches.

Through the 1970s, Williams was always a much respected international and all opposing sides feared his strength of running from his well-muscled physique. His 66 All Black tries was the record until beaten by Sir John Kirwan. At provincial level he played 132 matches for Auckland and was involved in four Ranfurly Shield winning teams.

35. Waka Nathan (1962-1967 – 37 matches)
In his 14 Internationals for the All Blacks Nathan, sometimes referred to as ‘the Black Panther’ never played in a losing side. He was described by Colin Meads as, “that most virile runner with the ball in hand, great at exerting pressure close to the forwards.”

Nathan suffered broken jaws in both of his tours to the UK in 1963-4 and 1967 yet still managed to score 23 tries in 37 matches, a remarkable strike rate for a forward of his era. Another Nathan hallmark was his blistering speed to the five-eighth and his ability to worry the inside backs with punishing tackles.

34. Gary Whetton (1981-1991 – 101 matches)
A regular Test selection for the best part of a decade, Whetton played 58 Tests, becoming only the second man after Sir Colin Meads to reach the half century. He was a superb all round lock, amazingly athletic for such a big man and with a startling turn of pace.

He formed an especially pairing in the early part of his career with Auckland and the All Blacks with Andy Haden. Together they provided a comprehensive package of locking skills. They were a strong lineout duo, providing jumping options at the front and in the middle, and were formidable scrummagers.

33. Charlie Seeling (1904-1908 – 39 matches)
Charlie Seeling was the outstanding forward of the 1905-06 ‘Originals’, a backrow or breakaway forward in the old 2-3-2 scrum. Until the arrival of Maurice Brownlie in the 1920s, critics were unanimous that New Zealand rugby had never produced a better or more complete forward.

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In the context in which he played, Seeling was a giant and to his robust physique Seeling added considerable pace, natural athleticism and, as a tackler, absolute fearlessness.

As a noted British critic EHD Sewell observed, his contribution was colossal, “This splendid specimen of manhood has everything necessary to the composition of a good forward. Search where one may, a better forward than Seeling does not exist.”

32. Andrew Mehrtens (1995-2004 – 72 matches)
Some, headed by Sir Colin Meads, believed that Mehrtens was the best in his position ever produced by New Zealand. Others believed that, despite his immense skills, vision, kicking and ability to throw long cut out passes to his outsides, he had limitations.

He had much of the steadiness and almost the same kicking ability as Grant Fox, but with a little more dash to his attacking play. He left behind a formidable record at all levels: 281 first-class matches for 3178 points, including 994 points in 72 matches for the All Blacks.

31. Jeff Wilson (1993-2001 – 71 matches)
Few in any generation have been as gifted and so diversely accomplished, especially lethal in the 1996-97 seasons, Wilson won accolades as the finest all round rugby player in the world.

Wilson was pretty well a complete player. He could run, kick and defend and did everything with a precise, polished skill. He also had an acute appetite and instinct for scoring tries. Though subsequently beaten by Christian Cullen he was a for a time the country’s record test try scorer.

As a lively medium pace bowler and hard hitting batsman in the late middle order, Wilson earlier excelled in One Day International cricket, hitting a match winning innings in the New Zealand win against Australia in Hamilton.

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