A history of New Zealand and Barbarians rugby

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The Barbarians and New Zealand have a special relationship with the All Blacks playing the Barbarians 11 times and winning eight matches.

The Barbarians were founded by World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee William Percy Carpmael in 1890. Carpmael was born in Streatham, South of London, in 1836

Carpmael was a keen sportsman and leading organiser who in 1890 founded the Barbarians with the “aim of spreading good-fellowship amongst all rugby football players.”

Membership to the Barbarians is by invitation and the only qualifications considered when issuing an invitation are; that the player's rugby is of a good enough standard and secondly that players should behave themselves on and off the field.

The Barbarians played their first international match in 1948.

The All Blacks XV made a successful debut last week with a resounding 47-19 victory over Ireland A.


First All Blacks Match

The 1953-54 tour of the UK, France and North America entailed a massive 36 fixtures (30 wins) one of which was an inaugural meeting with the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park on February 20, 1954.

The All Blacks produced one of their best displays on tour to comprehensively prevail 19-5. Ron Jarden, Tiny White, Morrie Dixon, and Keith Davis scored tries. Davis won the Tom French Memorial Cup for Māori player of the year three times. Jarden scored 145 tries in 134 first class matches.

A Golden Era of British Rugby

The British and Irish Lions won the 1971 series in New Zealand and South Africa in 1974. Wales were especially strong and won the Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971, 1976 and 1978.

The All Blacks and Barbarians clashed three times in the 1970s with the most famous clash the January 23, 1973, meeting at Cardiff Arms Park. The Barbarians won 23-11 with Gareth Edwards scoring arguably the most famous try in rugby history. So good was Edwards effort, the two brilliant tries scored by diminutive All Black wing Grant Batty are often forgotten. Edwards recalled some years later: 

“The game is one I will never forget and those of us who played in it will never be allowed to forget. It is a match that will live with me forever. People tend only to remember the first four minutes of the game because of the try, but what they forgot is the great deal of good rugby played afterwards, much of which came from the All Blacks. After the success of the 1971 Lions tour, which captured the imagination of the whole country, it was an opportunity to bring a lot of that side together again.”

In 1974 the All Blacks and Barbarians shared a 13-13 draw, a result All Black captain Andy Leslie (who scored a try in the game) regarded as one of the proudest of his career. The Barbarians were essentially the ‘74 Lions who were unbeaten in 22 games in South Africa.

The 1978 ‘Grand Slam’ All Blacks beat the Barbarians 18-16. Northland first-five Eddie Dunn won the game with a last-minute drop goal. Bryan Williams in his 113th and final appearance for the All Blacks scored his 66th try. Williams told ESPN Scrum:

"A lot of our teams used to form a wall-type move where players would line up and there would be a bit of deception about where the ball goes. I recall the guys had lined up as if they were going to do the haka - it was just meant to be a bit of fun. Being a Barbarians game, it was a bit of innovation. I remember us having a bit of a laugh about it the day before and a few of the guys were like 'Let's do it.’”


Modern Times

Following a 15-year wait the All Blacks and Barbarians finally clashed again at Twickenham in 2004. The All Blacks won handsomely 47-19 with 21-year-old Jerome Kaino making his debut. He would win the Rugby World Cup twice in 2011 and 2015. Another noteworthy feature of the match was that All Blacks Justin Marshall and Xavier Rush played against the All Blacks.

In 2009 brilliant Springboks wing Bryan Habana scored three dazzling tries as the All Blacks were defeated 25-18 at Twickenham. All Black Joe Rokocoko was on the opposite wing for the Barbarians.

In 2017 the All Blacks recovered from a 5-17 deficit to beat the Robbie Deans coached Barbarians 31-22 at Twickenham. Ironically All Blacks wing George Bridge scored two tries for the Barbarians on the only occasion Beauden Barrett captained the All Blacks. New Zealanders Ben Franks, Vince Aso, Mitchell Drummond, Andy Ellis, Dillon Hunt, Steven Luatua, Richie Mo’unga, Julian Savea and Like Whitelock also featured in the Barbarians squad.

The All Blacks XV face the Barbarians at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Monday 14 November at 3am NZT. Tune in live on Sky Sport NZ in New Zealand or get your tickets HERE.


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