The Original All Blacks (also known simply as “The Originals”) were the first New Zealand national rugby union team to tour outside Australasia. They toured the British Isles, France and the United States of America during 1905–1906. Their opening game was against Devon on 16 September 1905 whom they defeated 55–4. Such was the surprise that some newspapers in Britain printed that Devon had scored 55 points and not the All Blacks.
They went on to defeat every English side that they faced, including a 16–3 victory over English country champions Durham, and a 32–0 victory over Blackheath. They defeated Scotland, Ireland and England with the closest of the three matches their 12–7 victory over Scotland. The team’s only loss of the tour was a 3–0 defeat by Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. The loss was highly controversial wing Bob Deans claimed to have scored a try that would have brought them level.
However, in truth Wales were generally considered the better team with the All Blacks playing particularly poorly in the first half of the game. They managed narrow wins against the Welsh club teams and went on to play France in France’s first ever Test match. They returned to New Zealand via North America where they played two matches against Canadian teams. Overall they played a total of thirty-five matches, which included five Tests, and only lost once—the defeat by Wales.
The 1905 All Blacks tour of Britain went on to achieve legendary status within the rugby world and New Zealand in particular. They scored 976 points and conceded only 59, and thus set the standard for all subsequent All Black sides. The tour also saw the first use of the All Blacks name and established New Zealand’s reputation as a world class rugby nation. Some of these players eventually defected to participate in the professional 1907–08 tour of Australia and Great Britain where they played against Northern Union sides in the sport that would eventually become known as rugby league
After the formation of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in 1892, New Zealand representative teams were selected for matches against international opponents. The first tour by a New Zealand representative side under NZRFU auspices was in 1894 to New South Wales (although an earlier team had toured Britain and Australia in 1888–1889). New Zealand’s first Test match was in 1903 when they played Australia in Sydney. New Zealand’s first home Test Match was the following year when they defeated Britain at Athletic Park, Wellington, by 9–3.
The win was significant as Britain had been unbeaten in their Australian tour, yet they won only two out of five matches in New Zealand.The captain of Great Britain, David Bedell-Sivright, said after the Test that he could not see New Zealand winning the big matches on their Northern Hemisphere tour, but “I think you will probably win most of the county matches.”
The New Zealand selectors named a squad of 53 players from which the touring team would be selected in late 1904. The following year on 25 February, a list of 16 “certainties” for the tour was named (one of whom would eventually not tour due to injury). A final opportunity for selection was the North-South inter-island match on 3 June 1905 after which, 25 players were selected for the team, and an additional two were added prior to the team’s departure to Britain.
Before the Northern Hemisphere tour, 18 of the squad conducted a preliminary three-match tour of Australia where they won two matches and drew the other. They also played four pre-tour matches in New Zealand, winning two, drawing one, and losing their final match 3–0 to Wellington.
The team departed for England aboard the Rimutaka on 30 July. There were two ports of call on the journey – Montevideo, and Tenerife – before their arrival in Plymouth, England. The day after their arrival on 8 September, the squad travelled 24 km (15 mi) to Newton Abbot, which served as the team’s training base throughout much of the tour.
Scotland vs All Blacks
At the time of the Tour, rugby in Scotland was a game of the upper classes, and the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) was very conservative. Their officials believed the game should remain strictly amateur, and that rugby was for the players, not the spectators. The Scottish were uncomfortable with the public interest in the All Blacks, and did not make them feel very welcome. They interpreted a letter sent to them stating that the All Blacks did not want to be entertained after their match quite literally, and the All Blacks were not invited to the after-match dinner organised by the Scottish Union. As well as this, the SRU refused to grant international caps for the game.
The game was a financial success for the NZRFU.The NZRFU had asked for a £500 financial guarantee from the SRU for the game, but because of their poor finances, the SRU offered instead to give the entire gate (minus expenses). Due to a big attendance, the NZRFU received a fee of over £1700 for the game. Although the SRU were very happy with this (they offered the same terms to the Springboks when they toured in 1906), there were also concerns about the three shillings a day each All Black received whilst on tour. After they found that the Rugby Football Union had approved the payments, a Calcutta Cup match was cancelled.
The game was played on 18 November on an icy pitch (straw had not been spread over the pitch the night before), which nearly caused the game to be cancelled. The All Blacks kicked off, and had the best of the first ten minutes. Scotland eventually got a scrum near the All Blacks goal-line, and after winning the scrum, passed to Ernest Simson, who dropped a goal to put Scotland ahead 4–0. It was the first time the All Blacks had been behind on tour.
The All Blacks replied with a try under the posts, which was unconverted. A second try was then scored, by Smith; again it went unconverted. Scotland then scored an unconverted try, to lead at half time 7–6. With less than ten minutes to go the score remained 7–6 and it looked like the All Blacks might lose their first match on tour. However, with four minutes to go the All Blacks had a scrum on halfway; the resulting movement finished with George Smith crossing for a try. Bill Cunningham then scored a try with seconds remaining, and the All Blacks were victorious 12–7.
Four days after the Scotland Test the All Blacks faced West of Scotland in Glasgow. The cities’ secondary schools were given half a day off to watch the match. The All Blacks scored six tries on the way to a 22–0 victory. The team then travelled to Ireland, for their third Test.
Ireland vs All Blacks
The welcome extended by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) was in contrast to that of Scotland. The morning they arrived in Belfast they were met by several IRFU officials who took them out for breakfast. The arrival in Ireland also marked a homecoming for the captain Dave Gallaher, who was born in County Donegal, but had moved to New Zealand at the age of four. Thousands awaited the All Blacks when they arrived in the Dublin train station. On the Thursday before the Test, both teams attended the theatre together; sitting alternatively so they could better mix.
The sold out Test was played on Saturday 25 November at Lansdowne Road. The 12,000 that turned up did not get to see Gallaher though, as he was injured. Simon Mynott was also selected to play on the wing despite having never played there before, and there being three three-quarters available. For a 30-minute period in the first half the Irish forwards dominated, however the deadlock was broken close to half time when Bob Deans scored a try under the posts; Wallace converted the try giving the All Blacks a 5–0 half-time lead.
Early in the second half Deans scored another try; again converted by Wallace. Smith lost the ball over the line before Alex McDonald scored the All Blacks third and final try. Wallace successfully converted to give the All Blacks a 15–0 victory.
The All Blacks then headed to Limerick for their one other game in Ireland. Not all of the team travelled for the match against Munster, and Dixon had even tried to get the All Blacks out of the game. The match played on Tuesday 28 November was won 33–0 by the All Blacks. The eight tries witnessed by the 3,000 strong crowd included a penalty try after Fred Roberts was tripped close to the line.
England vs All Blacks
The England versus All Blacks Test at the Crystal Palace before a then record crowd of at least 50,000.
Following the Munster match the All Blacks returned to England. Due to its larger capacity, the game was played at Crystal Palace (which had an official capacity of 50,000) rather than Blackheath. Despite the official capacity, it is estimated between 70,000 and 100,000 people attended the match; many of them non-paying spectators.
The 100,000 spectators, including the Prince of Wales (the future King George V), was a record for a rugby or football match in London.
The England Test was the All Blacks’ third international in as many weeks; they had been played on successive Saturdays, with a mid-week match between each. England named eight new caps in their side, and played a rover (or wing-forward) on top of seven forwards. The game has been described as “a benefit for All Black wing Duncan McGregor”. He scored four tries in the Test—a record not equalled by an All Black until 1987.
A try was also scored by Fred Newton, and with none of the five tries converted, the score finished 15–0. English sportsman C. B. Fry said after the match, “The notion that these men beat us because of our physical degeneracy is nonsense. They beat us by organisation and by tactics.” A legacy of this match is that the whistle used by the referee, Gil Evans, has been used to start the opening match of every Rugby World Cup tournament. Between tournaments the whistle is housed at the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North and was donated to them by the chairman of the NZRFU and manager of the 1924–25 All Blacks.
The All Blacks had three more games before their Wales Test Their first was again Cheltenham on 6 December at Cheltenham. The match was won by the All Blacks 18–0 after they scored four tries; three of them by Abbott. The next match was at Birkenhead against Cheshire. The All Blacks scored 10 tries and recorded their biggest win in nearly a month. The final score witnessed by the 8,000 strong crowd at Birkenhead Park was 34–0.
The All Blacks’ last match before facing Wales was against Yorkshire in Leeds. The game was played in Northern Union territory, and there were many league scouts trying to recruit All Black squad members to the rival code. 24,000 spectators watched as the All Blacks won 40–0, which included 10 tries
The Original’s Test against Wales is still considered one of sport’s great matches.The Test was played at Cardiff Arms Park, 16 December 1905 in front of 47,000 spectators. The All Blacks were applauded onto the park where they performed their haka in front of a silent crowd. Once they had applauded their haka, the crowd, led by ‘Teddy’ Morgan, sung the Welsh national anthem Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of Our Fathers). The anthem was sung in an attempt to reduce the perceived psychological advantage of the haka. The match was the first time a national anthem had been sung before a sporting fixture.
The lead up to the match was controversial. The All Blacks’ manager George Dixon and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) could not agree on a referee. Dixon rejected all of the WRU’s proposed referees, and the WRU all of Dixon’s. The rules of the day dictated that in that case, the WRU could ask another union to appoint a referee. They asked the Scotland Rugby Union, who appointed Scotsman John Dallas. Dallas was heavily criticised during the Test, for wearing clothing considered inappropriate for refereeing a match, and for being unable to keep up with play.
As well as the referee, the selection of Mynott at first five-eighth over Billy Stead was highly controversial. Several explanations were given for Stead’s omission. One was that he was originally selected, but gave up his spot in the team for a disappointed Mynott. The official reason given for Stead’s omission was injury—although he was fit enough to act as touch judge during the Test.
After the match’s kick-off there was soon a scrum ordered The All Blacks were repeatedly penalised by the referee whenever they had a scrum. The reason for this was the All Blacks 2–3–2 scrum formation where they had only two front-rowers.
The Welsh team used a three-man front row, and had studied the All Blacks scrummaging technique. The Welsh countered the All Blacks 2–3–2 scrum formation by setting their front row after the All Blacks, and hence preventing the All Blacks from gaining the loosehead. Consequently, every time the All Blacks tried to hook the ball they were penalised, and this prompted All Blacks’ captain Gallaher to order his team not to contest the scrums, and to instead let the Welsh win the ball.
The All Blacks first half play was generally considered poor—with aimless kicking to Welsh fullback Winfield returning much better kicks into touch. The first ten minutes saw New Zealand’s Roberts break the line twice only to be caught by Winfield without support. Eventually Wales had a scrum feed 25 yards out from the All Blacks’ try-line. From this Wales executed a planned move—Owen got the Wales’ scrum-ball and dummied to on his right to Bush. He then turned left and passed to Cliff Pritchard. Pritchard then passed to Gabe, who passed to Bush, who eventually passed to Morgan. Morgan then raced 25 yards down the touchline whilst eluding Gillett to score for Wales. Winfield missed the resulting conversion—leaving the score at 3–0.
In the final stages of the first half the All Blacks began to assert themselves and were attacking strongly when halftime was sounded. Dixon claimed halftime was called two minutes early, and Wallace that it was three minutes early.
The All Blacks kicked off for the second half and the two teams were evenly matched. The All Blacks first five-eighth Mynott was having a poor game—dropping the ball frequently. Eventually Roberts stopped passing to him, and would instead run the ball himself. The Welsh had try scoring opportunities, but drop-goal attempts and dropped passes prevented them scoring. Some time during the second half (various accounts are given—all identifying different times in the match) the All Blacks got their best attacking opportunity of the match.
The Welsh won a line-out on the All Blacks side of half-way, and with the resulting ball kicked diagonally across-field which was fielded by New Zealand’s Wallace. Wallace then ran and broke through the Welsh line before confronting their fullback Winfield. Wallace then passed to Deans who was tackled either on, or near the Welsh line. The referee Dallas awarded a scrum to Wales five yards from their line. The All Blacks had further opportunities to score during the match, with Mynott held up over the line, Deans nearly scoring before being tackled by the Welsh, and McGregor nearly scoring except for a forward pass
France and North America
The All Blacks travelled to Paris on New Year’s Eve and on 1 January faced France at Parc des Princes. The match was France’s first Test ever. French captain Henri Amand gave the All Blacks choice of ends and the kick off. Although the All Blacks dominated, France scored a try to Noel Cessieux in the first half; the half ended 18–3 to the All Blacks. Georges Jérôme then scored for France after the break to make it 18–8 for the All Blacks. The All Blacks ended up scoring another six tries for a total of ten, and a 38–8 win. The eight points, and two tries scored by France were more than any team in the British Isles had against the All Blacks.
After spending several days sight seeing around Paris, the All Blacks returned to London. Instead of returning to New Zealand directly, they discovered that New Zealand Prime Minister Richard Seddon had organised for the team to travel home via the United States. Although the team wanted to return home immediately, Seddon insisted. The All Blacks had two weeks before they departed. Many of them stayed with friends of relatives, while Stead and Gallaher wrote The Complete Rugby Footballer. The team reassembled on 19 January and were farewelled by a dinner with the London New Zealand Society before departing Southampton on the SS New York the next day.
After arriving in New York City, they stayed for several days and an exhibition game was organised. The match was played in Brooklyn and was supposed to be New Zealand versus New York, however several New Zealanders played for New York to make up their numbers. Despite this New Zealand won the match. The team then travelled to San Francisco, via the Niagara Falls, Chicago, and the Grand Canyon. In San Francisco they played two matches against British Columbia; the first won 43–6 and the second 65–6. From there they sailed back to New Zealand.
Innovations and tactics
The Original All Blacks introduced several innovations to rugby in France and the British Isles. At the time of their tour many critics in the Northern Hemisphere blamed the use of the wing–forward for the All Blacks success. These critics claimed this player—who fed the ball into the scrum—would obstruct opposition players, and that the only reason they were not being penalised was due to poor refereeing. Their success however was due to a combination of factors, the most important being the team’s discipline and organisation, which was described at the time as a scientific approach.
Each forward in the team had a specific role in the scrum; they would each have a predetermined position within the scrum. This was different from their opposition— their forwards’ position in a scrum was determined by the order in which they arrived. This was described as “first-up, first-down”, and meant that the All Blacks were better drilled—giving them a significant advantage. The All Blacks had also practised their line-outs, and as a result had a very good understanding between the player that threw in the line-out ball, and the player who was supposed to receive it.
The All Blacks back-line formation was also different from that in Britain. They played two five-eighths, a position invented in New Zealand, that refers to the player between the half-back and three-quarters. These two five-eighths gave the All Blacks a defensive advantage. The British press were also surprised to see All Blacks fullback Billy Wallace attacking so often—They had generally viewed the fullback as a defensive position. The All Blacks also thought that every player, whether a back or a forward, should make themselves available to take a pass in support of an attacking player. The teams they encountered had forwards that understood their main role of winning possession for their backs, but would not support them when attacking.
The other major factor that helped the All Blacks to success was their superior fitness. In New Zealand each half was 45 minutes, not 35 like in Britain. As well as that, the All Blacks spent much time on fitness. This enabled them to play with speed much longer than their opposition.
The team departed New Zealand as the New Zealand Football Team, or, simply The New Zealanders, though names such as Maorilanders and Colonials were also applied. Reference to the team by the name “All Blacks” first appeared during the Originals tour when, according to Billy Wallace, a London newspaper reported that the New Zealanders played as if they were “all backs”. Wallace claimed that due to a typographical error, subsequent references were to “All Blacks”. Wallace was the last of the Originals to pass away, so this explanation for the name’s origins is widely believed.
However, the Express and Echo in Devon, reporting after the Originals match there, referred to “The All Blacks, as they are styled by reason of their sable and unrelieved costume.” The new name quickly became popular throughout Britain, though its acceptance into popular culture took a longer time back home in New Zealand. On 5 March when the team returned home, the Herald acclaimed the “New Zealand Footballers”, however, the following day its report of the official function was headed “Return of the All Blacks”
George Gillett- Fullback Canterbury 18
Billy Wallace -Three-quarters Wellington 246
Duncan McGregor -Three-quarters Wellington 50
Ernie Booth- Three-quarters Otago 17
George Smith- Three-quarters Auckland 57
Harold Abbott -Three-quarters Taranaki 47
Hector (Mona)- Thompson Three-quarters Wanganui 44
Eric Harper- Three-quarters Canterbury 24
Jimmy Hunter- Five-eighths Taranaki 129
Simon Mynott- Five-eighths Taranaki 49
Bob Deans- Five-eighths Canterbury 60
Billy Stead- Five-eighths Southland 33
Fred Roberts- Halfback Wellington 48
Steve Casey- Forward Otago 0
John Corbett- Forward West Coast 0
Bill Cunningham- Forward Auckland 22
Frank Glasgow- Forward Taranaki 37
Bill Glenn- Forward Taranaki 0
Bill Johnston- Forward Otago 9
Bill Mackrell- Forward Auckland 3
Alex McDonald- Forward Otago 12
Fred Newton- Forward Canterbury – West Coast 3
George Nicholson- Forward Auckland 18
Jim O’Sullivan- Forward Taranaki 3
Charlie Seeling- Forward Auckland 24
George Tyler- Forward Auckland 18
Dave Gallaher (Captain) Forward Auckland 5
Manager – George Dixon
Coach – Jimmy Duncan