Following the Battle of the Somme, a team of New Zealanders to be known as theTrench Blacks played nine games against various British, Welsh and Irish teams before playing an almost full-strength international against France.
Seven All Blacks were included in the New Zealand team which became an almost professional unit in their quest for fitness.
The French fielded eight internationals, but they enjoyed little preparation and several arrived straight from the Front .The New Zealanders triumphed 40-0. The team was presented with a bronze statue by sculptor Chauvel and each player a solid gold tinder box.
The side was the forerunner to the New Zealand Army XV that won the King’s Cup and toured Britain after the war.
General Bernard Freyberg, commander of the 2NZEF in late 1939 was a sports fanatic who realised what sport meant to New Zealand service personnel. He and Allan Andrews, the longest serving NZ Brigadier, agreed on a post war rugby tour of Europe.
Shortly after the Greek and Crete campaigns of 1941, the New Zealanders, who were regrouping in the desert, played the South Africans. Andrews told the writer:
“It was a huge game, with more edge for the New Zealanders after the humiliations at the hands of the 1937 Springboks, and was played on a beach surrounded by ack-ack guns with the Navy offshore and the Air Force patrolling the skies. Andrews, who organised the venue, made the New Zealand troops who watched the game park their vehicles a mile away from the venue in case the Germans were attracted to see what was happening”
Rugby continued to be played throughout the war in inter-unit contests and against foreign sides. Hostilities were barely over before Freyberg signalled the tour of Europe.
That team is regarded as one of the great New Zealand sides although it never enjoyed Test status. But its brand of rugby, attacking and fun-based, was the perfect antidote for players and the public tired of war and looking forward to the future. Its members went on to make distinctive contributions to the post-war game.
During the period of Indonesian Confrontation in the 1960s 1 RNZIR was part of the Commonwealth Brigade in Malaya and Borneo. The battalion based in Malacca played in the British Army Far East Land Forces Cup and never lost a game!
The NZ Police were part of Combined Services rugby until 1995. With the advent of professional rugby it is now less common to produce international players. The team became known as the Defence Force team until this year they were given the title “Defence Blacks”.
Recently the Defence Blacks have defeated the NZ Police, the South Island Māori team and also prevailed in the 100th anniversary ANZAC test match in Canberra against the ASRU. This was the first time in many matches the two teams hadn’t drawn such is the tight rivalry between the sides. Before travelling to the UK the Defence Blacks will play Manawatu and Wairarapa Bush in New Zealand. En route they play a French selection in Paris with a final match against the Belgium national side, another commemorative occasion.
The patron of NZDF rugby is former All Black captain Wayne “Buck” Shelford, who served as a Physical Training Instructor in the Royal New Zealand Navy. The legendary undefeated All Black captain, who played for Northampton Saints in the 1990s will accompany the team to England.
|SERGIE HOLLIS||NAVY||BACK ROW|
|JIMMY BERGHAN||ARMY||BACK ROW|
|BEN ACHILLES (VC)||NAVY||BACK ROW|
|JOHN BAILEY||ARMY||NO. 8|
|PHILIP FILIPO||ARMY||NO. 8|
|RA RBOUGHTON||ARMY||SCRUM HALF|
|HAMISH PYNE||NAVY||SCRUM HALF|
|TEE JAY OLIVER||ARMY||SCRUM HALF|
|BEN WYNESS||AIR||SCRUM HALF|
|BARNEY TE KANI||ARMY||SCRUM HALF|
|LOGAN VAUGHAN (C)||ARMY||CENTRE|
|CDR PETE KEMPSTER||CONT CDR|
|LT SIMON VISSERS||TOUR MANAGER|
|WOCSS DEAN FIELDING||TEAM MANAGER|
|WO 1 LYALL MOONEY||HEAD COACH|
|CPOMT (P) WAYNE RATU||ASSISTANT COACH|
|WO2 CARL FAIRBAIRN||ASST. TEAM MANAGER|
|SSGT DAVID FORBES||TRAINER|
|SGT AIDEN BUTTERWORTH||ASST. TRAINER|
|LT TAMSIN MAFI||PHYSIOTHERAPIST|
|FLT OFF ADAM PALMER||REFEREE|
The NZDF Head Coach Lyall Mooney is currently serving as RSM with the Royal New Zealand Engineers Corps. He has deployed to Bosnia, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sinai and most of the Pacific Islands. Lyall hails from Rotorua and he and his partner Gillian have two children.
He first represented the NZ Army in 1998 and played for the NZDF team (2000-2005) at No8. He has toured the UK. He considers the NZ Army gave him the chance to develop as a player and, from 2012 until 2015, to extend his rugby career as a coach. He believes there is a connection between the ethos and values required on the sports field and those required in the military: “the two roles are perfectly aligned”.
Lyall considers his appointment as Defence Blacks Head Coach for this highly significant rugby tour is enhanced by the visits that the New Zealanders will pay to the battlefields of World War One where his country were at the very centre of Allied Forces success.