Friday, February 03, 2023

England beat the All Blacks away from home in 1973

I'm fond of quoting the Irish hooker Ken Kennedy on English rugby in the amateur era: 

"England have the players. What they've got to do is find the selectors who will pick them."

Some evidence he was right comes in the shape of this victory against the All Blacks in New Zealand. Such wins are rare today: they were almost unthinkable in 1973.

England chopped and changed their team throughout the Seventies, yet three of the pack playing here - Fran Cotton, Roger Uttley, Tony Neary - were in the Bill Beaumont's grand slam XV almost seven years later. What might they have achieved if they had been selected consistently?

Similarly, Jan Webster and Alan Old had been the England half backs when, almost as unexpectedly, they had won in South Africa the year before. It's quite possible that they never played together again.

As you can see, 50 years ago rugby union was almost a different game. Not every player was a giant, there was no resetting of scrums, there was no lifting in the line out (or if there was it couldn't be too obvious) and it was the wingers who threw the ball in.

I wish England well tomorrow and shall watch the game, But I don't enjoy rugby union on television as much as t used to.

How much of that is down to the style of rugby Eddie Jones's teams came to produce, I may find out.


Matt Pennell said...

I met Lawrence Dallaglio at a sponsor's lunch (H.P. Bulmer) at Twickenham in 1997. At that point professional rugby was still in its infancy. He said to us that you'd really be able to tell the difference between the amateur and professional game when players had been able to lift weights Monday to Friday for two years. Sure enough the conditioning of professional players is impressive now - pros and ams look like two different species. Modern day rugby also has a land of the giants quality to it which means small but quick and elusive players like Jason Robinson and Shane Williams are extremely rare. The players have more time to work on skills and are more competent but it's less of a skills based game now, because of the sheer physicality.

Andrew Kitching said...

I remember that game. A big surprise, as England were usually rubbish in the 5 nations. England's loose forwards, plus Webster and Old were terrific, and their front row of Cotton, Pullen and Stevens were a scrummaging ,arch for any side.

Jonathan Calder said...

Thank you both. It's also worth noting that England had David Duckham's Coventry clubmates Geoff Evans and Peter Preece playing alongside him in the centre. As I recall, they were both classy players but injury prone.