The team that toured in 1908 was Anglo-Welsh, as the Scottish and Irish unions were openly obstructive to their players being selected. The reasons remain obscure, but it appears the tour was a hastily arranged affair to tackle the threat of league Downunder.

The growth of interest in the professional game persuaded the English union a tour was necessary to stop New Zealand sliding into its clutches.

Two of the outstanding chroniclers of New Zealand rugby, Rod Chester and Neville McMillan, say in their book The Visitors that the team were regarded as weak by British critics.

Their book also puts the professionalism issue in focus. Each member of the British team, some of whom resigned from jobs to be able to tour, received two shillings out-ofpocket expenses a day (the equivalent of $12 a day in today's terms) although one shilling a fortnight was deducted for training expenses.

Record crowds turned out to watch the tourists. In the first test in Dunedin, they faced an All Black team with a large contingent of players from the Originals' 1905 tour of Britain.

They were outclassed in the forwards and also had trouble coping with the experienced New Zealand inside backs.

The 32-5 hiding, including seven tries to one, encouraged the New Zealand selectors down a path which often invites pitfalls.

For the second test in Wellington they made seven changes from the first test team, including six new All Blacks. Then the weather joined in.

Very wet conditions made the ground a slushy mess of mud almost straight away. Back play was very difficult and the match developed into a forward struggle in which the tourists had a decided advantage.

There was no score at halftime, by which time the players were unrecognisable. The game ended at three-all, an All Black penalty to a British try by "Ponty" Jones, who dropped on the ball under the cross bar. The leather ball then in use was so waterlogged and heavy that the conversion attempt failed to lift over the crossbar.

The All Blacks stormed back to win the third test in Auckland 29-0.

Wellington threequarter Frank Mitchinson scored six tries in four games - five in the test series and one for Wellington - a record which stands against combined British teams.

Simmering in the background of this tour was the New Zealand use of the wing forward, who the British regarded as "nothing but an obstructionist and always offside." New Zealand developed the position as a means of getting quick possession to the backs. The wing forward fed the ball into the 2-3-2 scrum while the halfback was in position to deliver.

The argument continued over the first 30 years of the last century.

Changing Scores


Kicks were allowed to dominate in early rugby and it was not until the 1970s when the value of tries was increased to encourage more attacking rugby.

Kicking goals from marks was also a feature in early matches.

Until 1977 it was possible to kick a drop-goal from a fair catch anywhere on the field. That method of scoring ended when it was ruled a mark could be taken only behind a team's own 22m line.