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Meeting the mighty Meads

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Tom Fordyce | 10:44 UK time, Tuesday, 11 October 2011

King Country, North Island

The roadside sign just outside the tiny town of Te Kuiti spells it out for you in foot-high letters: "Welcome to MEADSVILLE. Please leave soccer balls in the bins provided."

With the whole of New Zealand apparently knee-knockingly nervous about the prospect of taking on arch-rivals Australia in this weekend's World Cup semi-finals, I have driven four hours deep into its rugby heartlands to seek counsel from a man who, more than any other in history, represents everything it means to be an All Black.

Voted his country's player of the century, described by former All Black coach Fred Allen as "the greatest ever, anywhere", Sir Colin Meads is to New Zealand what Bobby Charlton is to England or Don Bradman was to Australia.

He is also, as any rugby scholar will tell you, infamously - frighteningly - hard. Which is why, when he lumbers into the old wooden Waitete clubhouse and fixes you with an unblinking stare, all you can think is how much his handshake is going to hurt.

Colin "Pinetree" Meads, pictured at the Waikete clubhouse, is a New Zealand legend. Picture: Tom Fordyce

"Ah, the dirty play was part of the whole game," he tells me, with a wink. "You're just playing for the team, you just want to win.

"I wasn't that hard. Now (Springbok) Martin Peltzer, he didn't muck around. Martin only had one eye, and after one Test match and four provincial games we still didn't know which was the one that worked and which one didn't."

Former All Black half-back Chris Laidlaw memorably described Meads as a Darth Vader of the rugby pitch. It's an image that first appears at odds with the affable 75-year-old man sitting opposite me. Then the blue eyes twinkle, and the stories of casual violence start to flow.

"On tour in France in 1968 I had a big old tussle with Benoit Dauga," he remembers fondly. "He was the player who apparently was going to beat New Zealand, and in all the team-talks he'd be saying, 'Let's see who's the best player after the game; and all that."

Early in the game, Meads was kicked in the head by a French boot, opening up a bloody gash that would later need 18 stitches - taken without anaesthetic, in case you were wondering.

"I thought it was Dauga, so I just said to the doctor, hurry up, I want to get back out there and kill this bugger.

"I spent the rest of the game getting after him. I plastered him so hard that I cut my hand open, and that ended up turning sceptic.

"After the match I'm sitting there with this towel round my neck, soaking up all the blood. Benoit comes over. I'd broken his nose, and he was stammering, pointing to his face and asking, 'Why?'

"I couldn't believe it. I point to my head and say, 'That's why, you dirty so-and-so. Then he splutters, 'Non... non - Plantefol! Alain Plantefol!' Turned out was another fella who'd done me. So I made a big mistake on that one."

The fisticuffs should not fool anyone into thinking that Meads could not play rugby like a rampaging dream. From his international debut as a 20-year-old to his final cap in 1972 he was a virtual ever-present at lock or back row, making 133 appearances for the All Blacks and playing in what was then a staggering 55 Tests.

As a farming lad defined by his no-nonsense attitude and hard work, the man who became known as 'Pinetree' defined a Kiwi archetype - rugged, uncomplaining, uncompromising.

Meads played 55 Tests, and 133 games in all, for the All Blacks from 1957 to 1971. Picture: Getty

At 6ft 2ins and weighing around 14 stone he was small by modern-day second row standards. But those relentless hours working on the family farm developed a physique so powerful that, as the great BBC commentator Bill McLaren once remarked, he "carried the ball in his hands as though it was an orange pip."

"Dad had bought a 400-acre block of what we call scrub, and in summer you'd have to chop back this scrub," says Meads. "We'd have to slash at it, cut it back by hand, starting early in the morning.

"The big thing was taking enough drink to get through the day, and then be able to run home with all this gear. So that work was part of our training. You were working like bloody hell. We used to pray for the rugby season to come round, because it meant we could knock off early to go training."

Meads and his brother Stan, also an All Black regular, enjoyed a training regime that sounds equal parts wonderful and terrifying.

Before setting off for Te Kuiti I had received an email from the current head of King Country rugby. "Tom. Word of warning, don't stop for a drink with Tree. It's dangerous!" As the shutters on the bar behind us are pulled up, it all suddenly makes sense.

"We used to have two or three beers after training, always," says Meads. "We were allowed to - we weren't breaking any rules. Now a lot of these things seem to be frowned upon."

He sounds both wistful and disappointed. "A lot of players today drink juices, Fanta and things like that, and I think they're worse for you than beer, personally.

"We always had a big session after every game. We never had water on the field - we were never allowed to have water before a game. We'd have a cup of tea at lunchtime, and that was your last drink until after you played, because we were told by experts that if we drank water we'd get cramp." He raises his Denis Healey eyebrows and grins. "There must be a hell of a lot of cramp around nowadays."

Unsurprisingly, a series of myths have built up around Meads. Was it really true, I ask him, that he broke his arm playing Eastern Transvaal and yet carried on playing?

"Yeeaah. I went to the sideline, and the doc looked at it and said, 'I think you've just pinched a nerve'. Really? I'm not going off for a bloody pinched nerve. So I carried on playing.

"But I knew it wasn't right - there was something terribly wrong with it. I couldn't hold the prop. You know something's wrong when you can't move your hand."

A second famous story has Meads training by running up and down the King Country hills with a sheep tucked under each arm.

"Now that is a myth. A photographer called in to the farm to take some pictures of me and Stan, and I was coming home with a mob of sheep for dipping.

"Dad had this thing that every sheep had to go through that dip or have its throat cut. It was a fairly long walk for them down from the fields and they were buggered, so I had one under each arm. This photographer takes a picture of it, and that sent the myth around that I was training with them."

Meads' playing career was ended by the broken back he sustained when crashing his Land Rover, although that didn't stop him tearing the IV drips out of his body in hospital and attempting to walk home.

Almost 40 years on, the effects of those all those war wounds have left him craggy-faced and a little stooped, a Pinetree bent in a strong southerly.

While the prospect of an All Blacks final is enough to have him rubbing his mighty hands together, it also brings back bad memories of the last time New Zealand were within touching distance of the Webb-Ellis trophy.

In 1995 Meads was team manager when, two days before the final against South Africa, his squad was laid waste by food poisoning.

"We were all in trouble that night," he recalls. "In farming terms, I was like a cow with staggers - nothing works, your feet go sideways... I collapsed on the floor trying to get to the toilet.

"It all happened from the Thursday lunch. I always thought it was in the milk - Jeff Wilson and Andrew Mehrtens said they were on the chicken burgers."

By that night almost the entire All Blacks team were incapacitated. It was then that Meads made a decision that haunts him to this day.

"We never told anyone before the game, and that was my call. I said, we don't want those bloody Springboks to know we're ill. Don't tell anyone at home, no-one's to know about this, we'll get through it.

"But we didn't get through it, and when you try to tell everyone no-one then believes you. That was the sad part for me. On reflection I should have said well, we're not playing."

A group of Wales fans have gathered in the clubhouse, taking a diversion en route from Wellington to Auckland to stare at All Blacks shirts on walls and gape at the great man before them.

For a second I am distracted, and then I realise what Meads has just said.

You would have called off the World Cup final?

"I should have said, 'Look, we're all too ill, we can't play, put it off a day or two.

"When you've got 11 or 12 of your team who are vomiting and God knows what else... It was a sad time for us.

"We were by far the best team at the tournament. We were playing terribly well. But good luck to the Springboks - they played well, and for rugby the way it all turned out - with South Africa being out of the international game for so long, it was a great result."

As I take my leave a few minutes later, Meads is holding court in front of the star-struck Welsh fans.

The barman looks at me in surprise. "You're not staying for a beer?" Like a fool I mumble something about writing the blog and the journey home. Meads looks up, grins, and waves goodbye.

And his handshake? Monstrous. Like being wrapped up between two sides of beef.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    That's a great report Tom, well done! Hard to believe that the great man, these days, would have been dwarfed by some modern centres! Still think he would have been the hardest guy around though.....

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog Tom!
    Unless you've been to New Zealand it is almost impossible to understand the passion and reverence that Kiwis have for rugby, but your series of blogs have managed to get that across.
    If you happen to be in Palmerston North - and Kiwis will tell you disparagingly that there is absolutely no reason to go there! - there is a great little rugby museum tucked away down a side street; well worth a visit.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great blog! Probably the all-time great!

    It goes to show what bloated monsters the modern pros have become and why there's no space left on the pitch. Colin Meade would struggle to be picked as a scrum-half in some teams now. The man still enjoys a beer and has nothing to do with all this god-awful prissiness that's suddenly at large in the game!

  • Comment number 4.

    Meads, Martin Johnson, Victor Matfield and John Eales...............finest second-rows ever

  • Comment number 5.

    You ask him what happened to Ken Catchpole? May be a great but was also a thug

  • Comment number 6.

    Another great blog Tom, reminiscent of your blog on your meeting with Arthur Morris 'In the company of a legend' on 2 January 2011, just for the record we are all very jealous of your chances to meet such interesting men. Meads is the embodiment of the motto, which I am sure you saw on the Waitete Club House, 'The Game above the Prize' - although as he admits himself, 'you don't play to lose'.
    Keep it up Tom, we know you will

  • Comment number 7.

    Willie John McBride was better.

  • Comment number 8.

    Top read, Tom. Is that one-eyed Springbok lock the same guy that the Broon from Toon talks about on the 1974 Lions tour? Apparently someone punched the guy's glass eye out, but he totally freaked the Lions out by just picking it out of the mud and sticking it back in with blades of grass still poking out from the eye socket!

  • Comment number 9.

    Don't forget Frik Du Preez amongst your all time greats. He was probably the greatest player that SA ever produced, well ahead of Matfield.

  • Comment number 10.

    Colin may well have been small for a lock by modern standards but he was not 6 feet 2 and 14 Stone. Try just under 6 feet 4 and 16 and an half stone!

  • Comment number 11.

    Tom – As ever very enjoyable blog.
    The references to the casual violence of the time are now being romanticised and taken as a bit of a laugh. Whilst they should be taken in some context, some of them amounted to downright thuggery. I had the same name running through my head as Davico when I was reading the piece. You also think back to JPR Williams “rucking” he received on tour there and more recent examples (Jamie Joseph’s stamp on Kyran Bracken and BODs spearing).
    Still, interesting read.

  • Comment number 12.

    Impossible to say how these guys, like Meads would have done today, I think they would have needed to work on their fitness, but I think they'd take some matching at the bar.

  • Comment number 13.

    Met the guy and he's a genuine man, a hell of a player but as stated above he did some things that were way over the line,(met Wylie,Shelford and Collins too,now there is a quartet of granite hard men..Read about Shelford being stitched up in a game against France..God almighty)Ask Meads who he thought the best second rower was and he says his brother Stan, but one had to be more involved on the farm and that was that... As for great 2nd rows of a previous vintage,I'll add the names Roy John and Brian Price...

  • Comment number 14.

    @7 what rubbish....WJMcB was a overrated....

  • Comment number 15.

    I've been a Wales supporter since the mid-1950s and still chuckle at an incident in the final Lions v New Zealand test match of 1966.

    The Lions' outside-half was David Watkins of Wales, a great player who later had an outstanding GB international career in rugby league.

    For reasons known only to himself, Watkins started punching Colin Meads during the game after the whistle! Did he have a rush of blood to the head? A death-wish?

    Whatever Watkins' motive, the reaction was instant and predictable. Meads knocked out Watkins with one punch, which was the end of the game (and tour) for the outside-half. Pinetree weighed 16 stones rather than the 14 stones reported by Tom Fordyce. In boxing terms, Watkins was giving away nearly 6 stones - a welterweight hit by a heavyweight.

    A few days later, a group of New Zealand schoolchildren asked Colin Meads why he had reacted in that way. "It was self-defence", he replied in a slightly surprised tone. Why should anyone, even kids, not understand that?

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm loving these blogs Tom. All of the other blogs here just go on about what happened in a game I've already seen, but in these I've actually been learning quite a lot about what Rugby means in New Zealand and some of the true greats of the sport.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 17.

    BurkelBonce

    After the game if he was provoked sure. But please dont kid yourself. If Colin Meads, and others from all countries had played today they may have played a total of 5 tests. Glorifying acts of thuggery does nothing to promote the game. And yes I have a few stripes across my back and am sure I gave some. Does not make it right

  • Comment number 18.

    Some of you guys need to get some perspective. Tom/Meads were discussing the game, and society that existed 40 years ago. One reason they had a few beers after the match, the pubs closed in NZL at 6 pm. Hard as nails on the pitch, but reread the first part of Tom's excellent blog. Meads praises North; has empathy for MJ; acknowledges today's players are in a fish bowl compared to his playing days. The French call Lomu l'homme montagne, but Meads was the first man mountain.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog Mr. Fordyce. Evokes rugby from a bygone age very well. But I agree with LordSideStreet #10: Meads was significantly bigger than you have stated and was usually listed as 6ft.4ins. and over 16st. Not big by present day standards but pretty respectable for the time. Frik du Preez another great second rower of that era was only 6.3! And Walter Spanghero, 6'.2". Talking about famous confrontations: both Spanghero and Dauga made Meads their target in any France v. All Blacks match, with neither party giving or receiving any quarter. The fabulous Welsh side of the early seventies toured NZ having won the Grand Slam that year. They had in their team the two most feared locks in the European game in Brian Price and Brian Thomas with Thomas, considered an absolute terror. But the Pinetree subdued them both with neither making any significant impact the entire tour. That was the tour during which Meads knocked the tough Welsh hooker John Young spark out, for some hanky panky in the scrum. My word they were hard in thise days! But players would simply not be allowed get away with that sort of thing now.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks Tom, great blog...that's all, unadulterated appreciation

  • Comment number 21.

    At last a decent blog from you. Meads is a legend; I was in Te Kuiti last week and as you'd expect the locals love him. Good to hear a decent viewpoint on the modern game. Although, as modern players are paid and the price of a ticket (especially at Twickenham) is fairly extortionate, I think we should expect players to prepare themselves in the most thorough manner possible. (which probably doesn't include beer).

    Having been in NZ over the last few weeks, I think your recent blogs have at best missed the point, really haven't provided any insight and in the case of 6th August (revamped England...) have been inaccurate (IMHO). So this effort is much appreciated.

  • Comment number 22.

    Meads was one of the first players I can recall being sent off in an international in an era when sendings off happened about every hundred years. He was sent off for kicking out at the ball which was already in the hands of the opposing scrum half and that attitude sums up Meads. A bit of a law unto himself, a legend in New Zealand and a feared man in Europe where most of the international forwards were lawyers, bankers and office workers, strictly amateurs. If he were playing today he would be a Brad Thorne type; tough, gritty, not particularly big, good team man and a bit of a off the ball sly fouler.

  • Comment number 23.

    Brad Thorn not partculary big?????????

  • Comment number 24.

    Just read Tom's interview with Colin Meads - wonderful to hear the man himself explain the real deal. My son plays and I did too, and still coach. Says everything about the Kiwi attitude which is refreshing in a world with a high propensity of 'fluffy' people ! Trying to contact our family in Oropi (North Island) as I know they are loving it. Would be fantastic if there are any of these old games are in the BBC archives - well worth digging out for a repeat. God bless Bill McLaren too - what a fella.

  • Comment number 25.

    Some of you say that what Meads did was thuggery, and he'd never get away with it today. Do you not watch rugby today? There are some fouls now that are clearly deliberate and leave guys unable to play ever again but nothing is done. Tuilagi hit Ashton repeatedly, in front of the ref and camera, he got a few weeks ban and selected for the World Cup, in Meads' day he'd have been banned for life!

  • Comment number 26.

    Calum

    Are you kidding? Tuilagi v Ashton was run of the mill. Have a look of what Fitzsimmons did, and I am aussie, and tell me he would be playing. Tell me that R Loe would not have been thrown out of the game for what he did to Carrozza.

    Pretty sure Ashton is still playing. Most ex players agree what Meads did to Catchpole was totally out of order. Yeah guys were harder back then but it is still no excuse

  • Comment number 27.

    Great interview Tom, spooky that you state about being apprehensive of shaking hands with the great man. Aged 12 i was introduced to him in Manchester 1963 along with the rest of the team. The pain of the handshake is the abiding memory i have bored my pals with since then.

  • Comment number 28.

    #25 - Are you sure. I've watched enough rugby from the amateur era to be fairly confident that the Tuilagi/Ashton incident wouldn't have even merited a yellow card a couple of decades ago. It might have raised a chuckle, but nothing more.

    Your broader point is valid though: lets not kid ourselves into thinking the thuggery has gone out of the game. If anyone's uncertain, they could always check with Schalk Burger.

    I do agree with those above who caution against glorifying the thuggery of the amateur days, and yet.... and yet..... there is something about it that does make me slightly wistful (and I know that its wrong). Maybe its simply because modern thuggery is so secretive, a gouge in the ruck, a grab in the maul etc., that a good old-fashioned right-hander in the chops seems somehow innocent? Thing is, the gouging still happened back then. On balance we're in better times, though it is a hard thing to say as an Englishman.

  • Comment number 29.

    If I could see two blokes face to face swinging away..... Oh bring it on

  • Comment number 30.

    Still trying to decide who was the hardest player New Zealand have had: Meads or Shelford.

    Either way, with either of those in your side, you would know that the pack wouldn't take a backward step to anyone, and that gives confidence to the rest of the players.

  • Comment number 31.

    Davico

    I didn't say what Meads did to Watkins was right. Of course it was thuggery and shouldn't have happened. Nor am I glorifying thuggery, though having first played in the Valleys nearly 60 years ago I know it used to be almost unavoidable. I'm just being honest in saying that the whole bizarre incident still makes me chuckle. It was surreal - a small player after the whistle taking on the most intimidating hard man in rugby with predictable consequences, justified by that completely daft statement to schoolchildren a few days later. By contrast, what Meads did to Ken Catchpole shouldn't make anyone laugh.

  • Comment number 32.

    BurkelBonce

    I know what your saying.

    The best thing after trading a few was sharing a lager after the game. Was a different game and sometimes I wish that the boots could still be used to get these guys to not lie on the ball.

  • Comment number 33.

    Lovely to see an article about Pinetree here. I don't think there's enough reminders of the historical legacy of the game like this.....it offers so much perspective. I remember having a few beers in a bar in Te Kuiti the last time I visited NZ, only to be told I'd missed his presence by a couple of hours......what an NZ experience that would have been....I'm jealous Tom! It's a bit of pity that there's so much emphasis on the so called 'thuggery'.......you only need to speak to people old enough to remember him playing (and especially New Zealanders) to appreciate what he has contributed to the game. He will always be remembered as a total national hero and someone who has well and truly earned his stripes.....today's sporting generation should take note!

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm intrigued at the thought of Colin Meads' hand turning 'sceptic'. Does that mean his hand used to be a believer (perhaps in the invincibility of the All Blacks) but then changed its mind after the French game Meads recounts?

    Or is 'septic' the word...?

    Great blog, though!

  • Comment number 35.

    @33, It's pretty amazing in New Zealand how you can be in a pub and run into a legendary All Black.Went to a place in Riccarton, Christchurch and ended up having a long chat with Grizz Wylie, a man hewn from the same rock as Meads and 2 weeks later we wandered into a pretty rough looking place a few miles from Auckland airport where the barman(himself an All Black who was in the team beaten by Newport in the 1963, the only game of 36 they lost,and he still grieved the defeat) told us we'd just missed a man who like Pinetree is one of the revered greats..Waka Nathan

  • Comment number 36.

    Davico - as usual, it took just 5 posts on an article about Colin Meads for some whining Aussie to bring up Ken Catchpole. Yes, it was a terrible thing to have done, and he shouldn't have done it. But that was one incident in a long and proud career, from one of the greatest legends ever to play the game. Get over yourself.

    Great blog Tom, well written and I'm sure well worth the trek to Te Kuiti for the experience. There are still a few characters in the game that define the level of commitment to their cause, and Martin Johnson is certainly one of those, but they are few and far between nowadays. Of the current All Blacks there's Thorn & McCaw, with Kaino showing the potential. I'm impressed by Sam Warburton, the Welsh captain - certainly seems to be in that mould too, as does James Horwill, the current Wallaby captain. I struggle to find any French players to fit that bill....

  • Comment number 37.

    Cowboy Shaw and Kevin Skinner are another couple of ABs to throw up there with Meads and Buck. Cowboy was the toughest I personally ever saw. 1985, I was a kid when NZ played Eng. An Eng player had tackled an AB over the touchline and was giving him a little extra. Cowboy runs up and smashes him with a right hook. Knocked out cold. Andy Dalton balled him out in front of the Ref, saved him from being sent off.

  • Comment number 38.

    Andy Haden could give it out too, although he was a lot more subtle. Sean Fitzpatrick used to infuriate the opposition with his mouth. Paid for it plenty of times too. I think the Springboks still have one of his ear lobes.

  • Comment number 39.

    4.At 15:14 11th Oct 2011, Huwscarlet wrote:
    Meads, Martin Johnson, Victor Matfield and John Eales...............finest second-rows ever

    --------------------

    A good debate - though surely add Willie John McBride to your list? And South Africans wouldn't ever let you exclude Frik du Preez! Got to say though, having watched him so much in the past few years, Matfield is as good as I've seen. Springboks will miss him so much.

  • Comment number 40.

    Jamie Joseph and Aaran Pene were two hard men of the ABs modern era. Laurie Mains picked them to deliberately bring some mongrel back into the team. Mixed results though. Technique and mobility is so important now in NZ forward play, the hard aggressive game played in the past isn't as prominent anymore. And all the cameras, the post-match judiciary and loss of wages means the extreme violence is pretty much covered.

  • Comment number 41.

    My hero as a Scottish schoolboy second row of the same size. A great moment and memory to be at Twickenham in 1971 when Meads and du Preez played together for the Presidents XV. He is one of many of the great All Blacks who generously signed my "100 All Blacks" book - a farewell gift when I left New Zealand. The epitomy of NZ rugby and all that it stands for.

  • Comment number 42.

    Sorry, but the Catchpole incident really does put a blight on his legacy for me. You can't say 'a good player who sometimes played dirty', because a sense of sportsmanship is part of the make-up of a good player, not added on. The fact he had that in makes him a lesser All Black, and the veneration he is held in is typical of the blinkered New Zealand attitude that anything goes in the name of the black jersey. It's the same mindset as when Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu splintered Brian O'Driscoll on the 2005 Lions tour.

  • Comment number 43.

    I would suggest Richard Loe is the last of that tradition of AB enforcers. In that mould anyway. These days AB tight forwards are pure athletes. It's that part of Meads' game that lives on in Ali Williams, Whitelock, Kaino and Read etc

  • Comment number 44.

    NZ media speculating McCaw may be out after cameras caught another 7 in training today. If so, advantage to Aust.

  • Comment number 45.

    I well recall the way rugby was played "hard" back in the 60's & 70's, especially the way the ball would disappear for minutes on end within a ruck or a maul.

    I also recall the completely illegal, pre-meditated violence meted out to the Lions, pre-test, by (for example) Canterbury. Graham Price's broken jaw was a prime example of taking out the best opponents before a test match and this kind of behaviour continued up to the appalling O'Driscoll "Spear tackle" - appalling primarily for the way it was brushed under the carpet.

    If Meads thinks the game has gone soft, and easy, then I, for one, am delighted that we now have a relatively clean and thoroughly entertaining game that attracts sportsmen/women rather than out and out thugs.

  • Comment number 46.

    kiwiandproud

    Yes he was a great player. No one is arguing about that. The problem people have is that this guy is held up as some sort of rugby god and someone who all kiwis should look up to. If people, esp kiwis, were told the full story about the man I doubt many mothers would want their kids growing up to be like him.

  • Comment number 47.

    I agree with those who wonder just why this blog appears to be celebrating thuggery in rugby, particularly New Zealand rugby. I will never forget or forgive the premeditated violence inflicted upon Lions prop Sandy Carmichael by the Canterbury butchers during the 1971 tour. No wonder the ABs are hated even more than England!

  • Comment number 48.

    The ABs are hated? LOL. That's a big call, given the immense popularity they enjoy overseas. Go to any international airport and check the reception they receive as they walk through arrivals.

    Older kiwis remember Meads fondly because he represents an almost bygone era in NZ society. But you ask a younger generation and they're more likely to ask, "who?". For them, Michael Jones, John Kirwan and Jonah are more important. (if they're even thinking about rugby. Benji Marshall and Stacy Jones occupy a big place in kiwi hearts too)

    It's no mistake Eden Park has a statue of Michael Jones outside it. More than anyone, he represents modern NZ rugby

  • Comment number 49.

    Michael Jones. Now there is a man that should be lauded by rugby fans everywhere.

  • Comment number 50.

    Great Article,

    Good to hear about how they used to play back in the old days. I would think this generation of players would be much the same if they didn't have the camera's and fines which obviously put a stop to that sort of play!!

  • Comment number 51.

    Great report, Tom, on a great player. You are having a field day down there in New Zealand; absolute gold mine for a sports reporter at the moment!

  • Comment number 52.

    19. The incident happened right in front of me. The Welsh guy grabbed Meads jersey and he swung round in a reaction and hit him without even looking. It was an All Blacks break and not a scrum and unusually Meads was in front of the chase. Meads never was a thug and the only All Black regarded as such was our boy, Alex Wylie, and with good reason. And he turned out such a nice guy.
    47. I was at this game. Surely a gutless British media report. Wylie (with Hoppy) was the culprit but they were like that every game. Those B Lions had soft bellies.

    The guys today are fitter and faster making impact harder. The football is better but the refereeing (or the rules) are hopeless. Test matches decided by whimsical refs.

  • Comment number 53.

    Its worthwhile pointing out that the Meads era was a period when NZ rugby had finally mastered the 8 man 3-4-1 scrum. Took almost 30 years to do it, and were taught the hard way courtesy of 2 hammerings by the Springboks in 1937 and 1949.

    Looking back, I would say that change of scrum slowed the NZ game down. It definitely changed NZ backplay for the worst. The 2-3-2 diamond scrum NZ rugby used until 1930 produced a game that emphasized support play and continuity. Those are our traditional strengths. Thank goodness we're maximizing it's potential in our modern game.

  • Comment number 54.

    So Richard Loe is not regarded as a thug?

  • Comment number 55.

    Shame there aren't many other pieces like this, its nice to read about the places and people, not just match reports, speculation and analysis.

    You cant compare the game and players from 40 years ago to today, the game is totally different. The rules have changed so much that its almost a new game and dont forget they were amateur and as he says in the blog training got him out of an afternoons hard work.
    But one thing never changes, low level thuggery was and always will be part of the game and is (or was back in my day) the dividing line between being a back or a forward). Just letting your opposite know you are there. In this proffesional era, with careers on the line, players largely respect each others safety so serious incidents have all but dissapeared.

  • Comment number 56.

    Loe's right down there with Grewcock, Finnane etc

  • Comment number 57.

    The thing is it is prob worse that these guys did what they did back in the day. All these guys were not paid and so had to turn up to work to support their families. Thuggery robbed the victims of these 'hard mens' attacks from putting food on the table in a time when players were not millionaires

  • Comment number 58.

    Davico @54 - No I wouldn't think Richard Loe is a thug just a competitive person who won't take a backwards step. BTW I also think the same of Johnson!

  • Comment number 59.

    Benazzi

    Are you kidding? Breaking a guys jaw after he has scored a try. Gouging. Stamping. Could prob go on but don't want to give the c grenade anymore time

  • Comment number 60.

    How many of the current England squad would get into a current British Lions team?
    Can I suggest, none?

  • Comment number 61.

    Let's not romanticise violence. Meads was a thug. Anyone but the All Blacks.

  • Comment number 62.

    BaronBradley

    There is at least one so ur attempt at a wind up is just that

  • Comment number 63.

    Frank Bunce probably set the template for modern AB hard men. Not an enforcer as such, but definitely the go to man for settling things out on the field. Thing is, in today's NZ game dirty play gets in the way. It slows play, alters the tone. Drags the game back into the Stone Age. NZ forwards today are more focused on seeking space in the mauls and at breakdowns, taking the tackle and delivering clean ball, then getting back up to repeat the process, phase after phase. Why athleticism is so highly prized.

  • Comment number 64.

    Troy Flavell had all the attributes to become a truly great AB lock. But he was forever dogged by the 'dirty' tag. A shame. The dude had skillz.

  • Comment number 65.

    61.
    Being a bit silly there Sevens. Meads is an icon of the game and things have changed greatly since his days. Would you consider Finlay Calder to be a thug or just an openside that liked wallop the opposition now and then?

  • Comment number 66.

    I think McCaw's croaked, and with essentially a selection of third choice flyhalves, New Zealand are definite underdog's. Pocock is going to do a job at the breakdown, similar to how he destroyed the Boks. So, I'm afraid it'll be Australia in the final. Hope Wales can keep playing to their new true potential and get there too. Then it'll be up to the lads from the Cymru hills to make a good day of it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Priestland out. Warburton and McCaw playing through injury. Beale doubtful. Last man standing lift Billy Ellis?

  • Comment number 68.

    Good article Tom, a true living legend of the game.

    As for the injuries. The world cup is as much a test of endurance and depth in squad as anything else and long should it be.

  • Comment number 69.

    Great blog but checking on Wiki it gives his height as 6ft 3 1/2 inches and weight as 220 llbs, nearly 16 stone which seem likely to be correct. Players were not as large as they are now but he was big strong powerful man and a hell of a rugby player.

  • Comment number 70.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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