Should Richie McCaw's All Blacks achieve their 18th consecutive Test win, against Australia in Sydney, on August 16, the significance of their feat will be to surpass one of the great teams of New Zealand rugby.
Under the guidance of coaching supremo Fred Allen, for all but the last two games of their 17-Test winning run from 1965-1969, the team which was largely led by No.8 Brian Lochore, beat France four times, Australia three, the British and Irish Lions four, Wales three and South Africa, England and Scotland once. Had a foot and mouth disease outbreak in England not occurred during the 1967 tour of Britain, Ireland and France, a hastily-arranged tour in lieu of New Zealand's declining a tour to South Africa, the streak may have extended to 18 as the Test match against Ireland was cancelled.
Thirty-eight players were involved in the streak, only one of them Colin Meads, playing in all 17 games.
Hooker Bruce McLeod played 16 missing only the 75th Jubilee Test, against Australia at Athletic Park in 1967, to break his sequence.
Lochore, who captained the team in 14 of the games, played in 15 of the matches. He assumed the captaincy after Wilson Whineray's retirement following what was the first game of the streak against South Africa at Eden Park, a 20-3 victory in 1965.
Lochore's absence from two Tests was the result of an injury suffered in the first Test against Australia in Sydney in 1968, an injury which saw Ian Kirkpatrick become New Zealand's first replacement in a Test match following the IRB's law change allowing injured players to be replaced. Kirkpatrick marked the occasion by scoring a hat-trick of tries.
Apart from Lochore and Whineray, the captaincy was also in the hands of halfback Chris Laidlaw and flanker Kel Tremain for a Test each.
Three players made 13 appearances, Tremain, prop Ken Gray and second five-eighths Ian MacRae.
The full list of players to play during the streak was: (Tests in brackets)
Fergie McCormick (12),
Bill Birtwistle (4),
Ron Rangi (5),
I.S.T. Smith (4),
John Collins (1),
Mack Herewini (6),
Chris Laidlaw (12),
Brian Lochore (15),
Red Conway (1),
Stan Meads (5),
Colin Meads (17),
Kel Tremain (13),
Ken Gray (13),
Bruce McLeod (16),
Wilson Whineray (1),
Mick Williment (5),
Tony Steel (9),
Ian MacRae (13),
Waka Nathan (5),
Jack Hazlett (6),
Malcolm Dick (7),
Bill Davis (10),
Sid Going (5),
Sam Strahan (10),
Jazz Muller (7),
John Major (1),
Earle Kirton (11),
Graham Williams (5),
Ian Kirkpatrick (8),
Alister Hopkinson (6),
Alan Smith (2),
Tony Kreft (1),
Grahame Thorne (6),
Wayne Cottrell (4),
Owen Stephens (1),
Tom Lister (5),
Mick O'Callaghan (3),
George Skudder (1).
The side scored 54 tries (when they were still worth three points) in their 17 games with wing Steel, a national sprint champion in New Zealand, touching down seven times while Ian Kirkpatrick scored five tries.
McCormick scored 112 points from 23 conversions and 21 penalty goals and one dropped goal while Mick Williment scored 51 points from a try, 12 conversions and eight penalty goals.
Here's how the streak was made up:
Test 1 - v South Africa, Eden Park, September 18, 1965, Won 20-3
This came after the humiliating 16-19 loss at Lancaster Park when New Zealand turned 16-5 ahead at half-time and looking set to clean sweep the Springboks. But brilliant second five-eighths John Gainsford and fine wing Gert Brynard scored two tries apiece while big lock Tiny Naude had landed a penalty goal out of the mud to secure a fine win. Stung by their loss, the All Blacks made the most of spring conditions to run in five tries, two of them to wing I.S.T. 'Spooky' Smith. Had new cap Fergie McCormick had his goal-kicking boots on the humiliation could have been even greater. He converted only one of the tries.
Critical comment: AC Parker, Now Is The Hour, "There was certainly nothing in the first half to suggest that the All Blacks would, in the end, triumph by a staggering 17-points margin - one that equalled South Africa's 17-0 win over the Kiwis in the first test of the 1928 series in Durban."
Test 2 - v British and Irish Lions, Carisbrook, July 16, 1966, Won 20-3
The Lions had endured a terrible build-up to this Test having lost the first game of their tour to Southland, and then following that with losses to Otago and Wellington, while they had also drawn with Bay of Plenty. Playing under Brian Lochore's captaincy for the first time New Zealand scored three tries to none, including one to the skipper for a comfortable win. Debuting in the game were Ian McRae, Jack Hazlett and Tony Steel.
Critical Comment: T.P. McLean, The Lion Tamers, "The All Blacks this afternoon won the first test by 20 points to 3 and if Mack Herewini had not kicked so much in the second half, they would have won by 30 points, perhaps even 40, so decisively superior were they."
Test 3 - v British and Irish Lions, Athletic Park, August 6, 1966, Won 16-12
Six changes were made by the Lions, it had been seven but Ray McLoughlin was forced out with the 'flu on the morning of the match and it was to prove their best Test performance of the tour. In spite of the muddy conditions the sides attempted to move the ball but it was only New Zealand who could score the tries with Kel Tremain, Colin Meads and Tony Steel crossing the line. Video coverage available here
Critical Comment: Brian O'Brien, Sports Digest, "The test rubber is well and truly lost because the British Isles team has been short on too many simple fundamentals of forward - and back - play."
Test 4 - v British and Irish Lions, Lancaster Park, August 27, 1966, Won 19-6
The Lions were at sixes and sevens as was seen by their decision to play Delme Thomas, a lock, in the front row. However, the Lions held the All Blacks to 6-6 at half-time. And if there had been better support for Mike Gibson, the superb Lions second five-eighths there might have been more reward for the Lions. As it was Steel was put in the clear to score the All Blacks first try, and Waka Nathan's support play was rewarded with two later tries.
Critical Comment: J.B.G. Thomas, Western Mail, "The bad luck that has dogged them throughout the tour was with them again and time after time they were just denied scores…the rub of the green never once went the Lions' way."
Test 5 - v British and Irish Lions, Eden Park, September 10, 1966, Won 24-11
The fourth Test was notable for New Zealand making the only change to their playing XV in the four-match series when Malcolm Dick replaced I.S.T. Smith on the wing. The quick-thinking of the All Blacks was apparent in the opening try of the game when Lions wing Dewi Bebb took the ball into touch just out from the Lions' line. Colin Meads was onto the ball in a flash and threw it in quickly to Nathan who scored the easiest of tries with the Lions caught completely off-guard. Three more followed to Dick, MacRae and Steel before a comfortable match and series win was achieved. Video coverage available here
Critical Comment: T.P. McLean, The Lion Tamers, "Once more the triumph was the performance of the All Black forwards - all of them. Meads, Meads, Gray, Hazlett, McLeod and Lochore in the tight stuff, Tremain and Nathan in the loose, swooped and swarmed and battered and harried."
Test 6 - v Australia (75th Jubilee Test), Athletic Park, August 19, 1967, Won 29-9
This was a Test match which once and for all highlighted the potency Fred Allen was developing in his side. That was all the more surprising given the new blood introduced. Sid Going played his first Test at halfback while Bill Davis, a 1963-64 tourist to Britain, came in a centre with Sam Strahan at lock, Brian 'Jazz' Muller and Jack Hazlett as props while hooker John Major played his only Test. Three tries in six minutes in the third quarter, to Bill Davis, Steel and Tremain took the game away from a gallant Australian team before Steel had a chance to put his sprinting ability to use to score a second.
Critical Comment: Max Howell, Lingyu Xie, Bensley Wilkes, The Wallabies, "It was an exhilarating performance worthy of the best traditions of the game."
Test 7 - v England, Twickenham, November 4, 1967, Won 23-11
Earle Kirton marked his Test debut, and return to the top-flight of the game after a harrowing tour in 1963-64, by scoring two tries in this Twickenham thriller, the second of which was a superb run on the angle into the corner. New Zealand lead 18-5 at half-time and while scoring only one more try they were well on top of the old foe in claiming a record winning margin over them. Also making his debut in the game was Graham Williams, one of the forgotten men in this streak. His chance to play came after Waka Nathan had his jaw broken for the second time on a tour of England. Video coverage available here
Critical Comment: Vivian Jenkins, The Sunday Times (England): "All three [tries] demonstration the New Zealanders' mastery of the basic skills of handling and passing, even in these extremely difficult conditions. In addition there was the never-ending forward surge and impetus of their mighty pack. This is a great New Zealand side without a doubt, and anyone who beats them will truly earn a place in the Hall of Fame."
Test 8 - v Wales, Cardiff Arms Park, November 11, 1967, Won 13-6
Conditions were bleak for this encounter, a typically dour struggle as Wales still gave themselves every chance of claiming an All Black scalp. They paired halfback Gareth Edwards and first five-eighths Barry John for the first time in a Test. But in spite of the conditions New Zealand's willingness to move the ball saw Davis show his class with an outside break which provided just enough room for Birtwistle to score in the corner. McCormick landed a superb conversion from the sideline. The conditions contributed to Wales' demise when a long-range penalty attempt by McCormick had unexpected rewards. The shot fell short but after fielding the ball, Wales' No.8 John Jeffery inexplicably threw the ball over his shoulder - to no-one. Davis had pursued the kick and in the resulting melee got to the ball first for what was the match-winning try.
Critical Comment: J.B.G. Thomas, Rugby in Black and Red, "New Zealand were much the better side and, although mud is always a great leveller, one would not remember the match as a genuine challenge to the supremacy of the world champions…To win in Test rugby you must kick your goals, take your chances and make no errors. This sums up, more than adequately, the Wales v New Zealand match of 1967."
Test 9 - v France, Colombes Stadium, November 25, 1967, Won 21-15
Talk to any of the All Blacks involved and they will comment on the ferocity of this encounter. Colin Meads was targeted by the French and suffered a bad gash to his head. Up 11-9 at half-time, the All Blacks went behind when Pierre Villepreux landed a penalty goal. Only 15 minutes remained when the winning advantage was secured after Sid Going made precisely the sort of break he had been selected for. Support from Meads was enough for him to feed Ian Kirkpatrick, whose present on debut was a broken nose in the first five minutes, in for his first Test try. Dick scored another afterwards to make the game safe but it had been one of the toughest encounters of the streak.
Critical Comment: Hacques Carducci, Le Journal du Dimanche, "A film director could not have devised a better scenario. In turn, violent, agonising, thrilling, beautiful, revolting, this match will remain in the annals as the most tremendous set-to to have taken place on the green sward of Colombes for 15 years."
Test 10 - v Scotland, Murrayfield, December 2, 1967, Won 14-3
Scotland were seen as a potential banana skin for the tourists as New Zealand hadn't been able to score a try against them since their 1935-36 tour. But a Willie Away movement which saw Meads, obvious on the day due to the head bandage he was wearing as a result of the wound suffered in Paris, created the room for McRae to score the first try. Up 9-3 at half-time, it wasn't until the 75th minute that New Zealand made the game safe, courtesy of an Earle Kirton double round which created space for Bill Davis to score. Sadly, in the last few minutes of the game the success was outdone by the ordering off of Meads by referee Kevin Kelleher for dangerous play following a warning he had received earlier in the game.
Critical Comment: Michael Melford, The Sunday Telegraph, "Some may think that he [Meads] has been lucky to sail near the wind for so long and survive, but there is a stigma attached to being sent off which made the decision as this stage of an orderly match desperately harsh, especially to a member of a team which has overall done all it can to advertise the skills of New Zealand Rugby [sic] rather than the toughness."
Test 11 - v Australia, Sydney Cricket Ground, June 15, 1968, Won 27-11
Fred Allen started to introduce his next crop of players on the tour to Australia in 1968 and that was seen in the naming of the first Test side which saw Grahame Thorne on the wing, although he had previously played at centre while Tom Lister was included on the side of the scrum. But was the loss of captain Lochore a few minutes into the Test with a broken thumb that was to prove of most consequence. His replacement Ian Kirkpatrick scored a hat-trick of tries in a game that became most notable for the horrific injury suffered by ace Australian halfback Ken Catchpole who was pulled from a ruck by Colin Meads who hadn't realised Catchpole's leg was pinned. The pulled muscles and tendons resulted in Catchpole never playing again.
Critical Comment: Dick Tucker, The Sunday Mirror, "The All Blacks were caught unawares by Australian coach Des O'Connor's [sic] plan of conceding them the ball from the line outs and scrums and then hitting their backs hard and fast to jar the ball loose. The All Blacks won the line out ball all right, but their backs collected a green and gold jumper at about the same time as the ball. It was adventurous planning to counter the tourists' line out dominance."
Test 12 - v Australia, Ballymore, June 22, 1968, Won 19-18
Des Conner had been one of the key men in Fred Allen's Ranfurly Shield side of the early 1960s but he did him no favours as Australian coach, and especially in this game in which he continued his policy of using reduced numbers in the line outs ploy caused all manner of frustrations for the All Blacks. Australia were up 12-11 at half-time. It was midway through the second half before Thorne scored his try on debut, but with Arthur McGill having landed one of five penalty goals in the game, New Zealand were still behind. Things looked desperate with two minutes to go. At that point Bill Davis put a kick ahead to the Australian in-goal area, but just after making the kick and following up, he was tackled by Barry Honan and the referee Kevin Crowe immediately signalled a penalty try to New Zealand. McCormick's easy conversion from in front of the posts allowed the All Blacks to scrape out to keep their streak intact.
Critical Comment: Frank O'Callaghan, The Sunday Mail, "I never thought I would see an All Black side panic, but panic they did. They seemed stunned by the fanatical fervour of the Australian defence."
Test 13 - v France, Lancaster Park, July 13, 1968, Won 12-9
Knowing what to expect as a result of their battle in Colombes seven months earlier, the All Blacks were prepared, albeit without some experienced men. The scores were tied 3-3 at halftime and as a dull game wound down it appeared a draw would be the outcome. However, just before full-time was blown, a French scrum close to their line saw a poor pass from halfback Marcel Puget to fullback Villepreux roll along the ground. Villepreux soccer-kicked it for touch. However, it hit Thorne's shoulder and rebounded in-goal where a mad scramble saw the ball bounce off Tremain's head annd fly free for Kirton to skid in to touch down for the try. Video coverage available here
Critical Comment: Alex Veysey, The Sunday Times: "When all the other things about this game are forgotten, the 36 penalties, the arguments about their justification, the mud, even New Zealand's death-knock try to win the game, it will be remembered as the day when French rugby proved itself to a sceptical New Zealand public."
Test 14 - v France, Athletic Park, July 27, 1968, Won 9-3
Two memories abound of this game, the niggly attitude which resulted in little clear-cut rugby being played and the monstrous penalty landed by Villepreux from nearly five metres inside his own half and well towards the sideline. Laughter from the Athletic Park cognoscenti greeted his decision to try for goal but that was soon turned to amazement when it flew over the cross bar to give France a 3-0 lead at half-time. New Zealand turned on the power in the second half and while they couldn't cross the French line, Fergie McCormick found his goal-kicking touch to land three penalty goals for a 9-3 win. Significantly, the French lost their yapping halfback Puget, the captain on the day, to an injury and he flew home soon after the game. He was one of the main belligerents in the unhappy atmosphere in the game.
Critical Comment: Graeme Jenkins, NZPA, "It should have been champagne Rugby when New Zealand and France met in the second test at Athletic Park on Saturday. Instead, it was a fairly insipid, if not downright sour, brew with the All Blacks winning 9-3."
Test 15 - v France, Eden Park, August 10, 1968, Won 19-12
A much better attitude was witnessed in this game which became a fitting farewell for coach Fred Allen as both teams opened up their running game, France inspired by the move of Jo Maso from centre to first five-eighths. France, outscored New Zealand three tries to two, but the New Zealand decision to change halfbacks proved crucial. Sid Going was given licence to run by Allen and he punished the French with two tries in one of his finest games for the side.
Critical Comment: Adrian Clarke, The Sunday Times (NZ), "I thought the All Blacks played ideal All Black rugby in the first half. Colin Meads was outstanding. I don't think I have ever seen one man in so much of the game all the time. Sid Going had a great game. It was the best half-back exhibition I have seen since Des Connor retired."
Test 16 - v Wales, Lancaster Park, May 31, 1969, Won 19-0
Wales came to New Zealand as Five Nations champions but made a fatal mistake in accepting only one game before the first Test, against Taranaki. The All Blacks were playing under a new coach Ivan Vodanovich but played in the manner they had shown on their 1967 tour and Wales had no answer. In what would become a forerunner of the modern All Blacks, it was prop forward Jazz Muller and hooker Bruce McLeod who cut the early capers to upset the Welsh. A superb sprint by Muller opened space for McLeod who galloped 20m to score the second of the All Blacks' tries. Malcolm Dick, Brian Lochore and Ken Gray would also score in a comprehensive New Zealand win.
Critical Comment: Clem Thomas, The Sunday Times: "In all my experience I can never recall a Welsh pack receiving such a father and mother of a hiding as it did at Lancaster Park on Saturday. Furthermore, I cannot recall any pack of forwards playing as well as this all Black pack."
Test 17 - v Wales, Eden Park, June 14, 1969, Won 33-12
They wrote a song about this match, and especially Fergie McCormick as he scored 24 points to claim the world record for most points by an individual in a game from three conversions, five penalty goals and a dropped goal. But the Welsh had their own hero in wing Maurice Richards who scored a superb try only to be lost to rugby league soon after. George Skudder scored a try, notable for the spectacular dive he executed, while Ian MacRae and Ian Kirkpatrick also scored for the All Blacks. The match was the beginning of the end for New Zealand. Ken Gray said he would not tour South Africa and he retired from Test rugby while Kel Tremain was dropped for the series. Want to know more about the All Blacks of this era? Click here, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Critical Comment: Alex Veysey, The Sunday Times: "Wales went into the game with high hopes for a prestige victory to take home. The champions of the five nations plummeted to a defeat which for them was indeed a tragedy. They seemed both dumbfounded and angry by the day's events."