All Blacks: The 50 Test Club

Here’s a blog I wrote back in 2007 but am now transferring to RugbyFix. It was before the All Blacks v France game in Wellington, on the 9th of June. The All Black went on to demolish France 61 – 10. A fifty point thrashing that might put any potential complacency the All Blacks team might have had when they challenged France in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter final, into context. No other team in world rugby apart from France can turn around a 50 point defeat in such a way, and no other team apart from the All Blacks are expected to avoid complacency to such a degree.

The point of the article was to highlight the milestone that was awaiting Richie McCaw and Byron Kelleher in that match. Both were joining the 50 test club. Even in this day in age it is an exclusive club, and something to be very proud of. Consider this, All Black stalwarts Carl Hayman and Jerome Kaino never cracked the 50. Hayman is left on 46, Kaino on 48, the same number Jerry Collins is stranded on. The 2007 Rugby World Cup defeat ended many international careers, either because some players left New Zealand or they couldn’t rekindle the fire afterwards.

The blog listed the players who might go onto join them and the other 24 players who had made it at that point in time. McCaw and Mils Muliaina went on to get 100 tests, and Keven Mealamu will join them soon. There are now 41 All Blacks in the 50 test club.

Ali Williams, Reuben Thorne, Josevata Rokocoko and Leon MacDonald went on to bring up 50 test caps, as did a variety of others who at that time were not even on the list. For example, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith had not yet developed the combination that would see them put a stranglehold on the All Blacks midfield for years to come. At that time not many would have predicted Jimmy Cowan to make the 50 test club. Piri Weepu missed selection to go to the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and now has over 65 test caps. Andrew Hore is now over 70. Brad Thorn too would emerge from the wilderness and have a second chance at rugby union, famously cemented his place for the years leading up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph. Dan Carter and Tony Woodcock now have over 90 tests.

Article from the 5th of June, 2007 – All Blacks: The 50 Test Club

With Richie McCaw and Byron Kelleher playing their 50th tests this weekend, it’s a good time to draw attention to the huge percentage of the team that look to break their half century this year. In All Black history, only 24 players have done this. 4 of them (if you include Somerville) are in the team at the moment, and below is a list of 11 who will probably (or might) crack 50 this year.

Obviously this shows the large number of tests players are playing now. Muliaina only debuted in 2003! It also shows the level of experience in the current team, and the length of time they have been playing together. While some players like Muliaina and Rokocoko have churned through the tests since debut, some of these players have had to work for nearly a decade to make 50 tests – Kelleher, Thorne and last year Oliver. Even for the relative newcomers, it’s a long time to try to be at the top of your game, play with and against the best players in one of the most physical sports in the world and (I imagine the hardest thing for these guys) be in one of the most scrutinised positions in NZ. When I went to the All Black autograph signing session at St Lukes last week, I couldn’t believe the crowd that waited and screamed for them.

Byron Kelleher, in his interview on allblacks.com last week said that making 50 tests was a big deal for him because it was a landmark that intrinsically recognised all the sacrifices he made to get there and stay there. Regardless of what we think of players like Thorne and Kelleher, we can give credit when it’s due and congratulate them for doing something most of us (literally) only dream of.

Congratulations!

Player: Richie McCaw
Tests: 49

Player: Byron Kelleher
Tests: 49

Player: Ali Williams
Tests: 41

Player: Keven Mealamu
Tests: 42

Player: Reuben Thorne
Tests: 46

Player: Josevata Rokocoko
Tests: 40

Player: Leon MacDonald
Tests: 44

Player: Malili Muliaina
Tests: 47
POST EDIT: All the above players made it to 50, and some far beyond.

Maybe:
Player: Jerry Collins
Tests: 38 (out for 48)

Player: Aaron Mauger
Tests: 39 (out for 45)

Player: Carl Hayman
Tests: 36 (out for 46)

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