Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Ian MacRae

All Black history is festooned with all sorts of self-help fitness programs and ideas about self-reliance.

When Ian MacRae was posted to Hawkes Bay to work in the forestry he ran the long trek into the bush, with his pack on, to develop the stamina for his weekend rugby interest.

He was picked as a youngster for the '63 trip to Europe to understudy Paul Little but was a little miffed he did not get a run at second five when a slew of injuries affected the squad.

MacRae's test debut came three years later on Fred Allen's watch when the coach decided to use MacRae's size and power to peel the Lions back in midfield.

It was a winning potion but MacRae felt his reputation suffered because most rugby watchers never appreciated he changed his style after that series win.

A far more tragic fate came in the '67 tour match in Leicester when MacRae marked English international Danny Hearn who, when attempting a tackle, broke his neck when his head connected with the All Black's thighbone.

Politics teacher Hearn was paralysed and even after visiting him in hospital, MacRae found it tough to shut the accident out of his mind. In the sorry aftermath, the pair became great friends with MacRae hosting Hearn in New Zealand.

The All Blacks of '67 were discouraged from kicking and backs like MacRae appreciated the greater involvement with the run, pass and backup directions from their coach.

His great disappointment was the cancelled tour of South Africa that year and then the lack of success when they visit the Republic in 1970 for a series when MacRae marked the powerful Joggie Jansen.

"It was a very physical tour and I came home shattered and slept for a week. My wife thought I was crook but I was just exhausted," he said.

Shattered enough though to announce his All Black retirement although he remains in the rugby limelight as NZRU president.

Statistics
Date of birth: 6 April 1943
Position: Second five-eighth
Test debut: 16 July 1966 v British & Irish Lions at Dunedin
Final test: 12 September 1970 v South Africa at Johannesburg
Matches: 45
Tests: 17
Province: Hawkes Bay
Debut: 16 July 1966 v British & Irish Lions, Dunedin
Final test: 12 September 1970 v South Africa, Johannesburg
Test tries: 3
Test points: 9

- NZ Herald

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