During his All Black career, Wayne Shelford and his men pounded the Welsh and 25 years on, folk from the principality still crave to hear stories about the destruction.

Shelford obliged the audiences on a tour to the valleys late last year as he received tributes for his work during an unbeaten tenure as All Black captain.

He nods to that respect although he would prefer to be coaching rather than talking about rugby. While Wales were saluting Shelford, he was hurting from another rebuff as Harbour coach.

But he will move on, like the pragmatic assessment he gives of his era with the All Blacks. It had been "nice" to get the accolades as unbeaten skipper but it was "only a game of rugby."


He has been captivated by the All Blacks work with Steve Hansen's group since the 2011 World Cup triumph and thought they had taken their game to a new standard.

"They have lifted well and they are a really good side," he said. "They have got the bottle and they won't bow down to anyone."

That opinion is gold-plated coming from someone who rates in the top line of All Black hard men.

Shelford juggled life in the navy and his passion for rugby when he shifted from Rotorua to Auckland almost 40 years ago. It gave him a framework for life away from some of his less ambitious friends.

He played rugby when the navy could arrange it, made the Auckland age-group sides and found the rugby "easy" in Auckland compared to the rough n tumble in Rotorua.
There were a few forays into the Auckland side but mainly as a backup until 1984 when Glenn Rich snapped his Achilles tendon.

The following year North Harbour started and Shelford stayed with his North Shore club to become the new province's inaugural captain and initial All Black.

After his involvement with the Cavaliers, Shelford made his test debut in France in 1986 when he was concussed, lost some teeth and needed some subtle stitching in the vicious match in Nantes.

Those trips taught the All Blacks about adversity and Shelford says the squad took those lessons and their skills into the first World Cup.

That year was the busiest of his career as he reckoned he played more than 50 games including sevens, emerging players, club, provincial and All Black duty.

"I was very busy but I could do it all over again. We stood up as leaders and we were very motivated to do well in the World Cup final because of what happened in Nantes," he said.

Shelford became captain on the end of year tour to Japan as the All Blacks continued their extraordinary unbeaten tear. They drew with the Wallabies in 1988 but were unbeaten in Shelford's term until he was dumped in 1990.

"Bring Back Buck' signs adorned the country as the fallout from that decision festered and gained even further energy as the All Blacks withered at the 1991 World Cup.

Comparisons with Zinzan Brooke and the political intrigue about the All Blacks coaches were constant topics until the end of Shelford's career and beyond.

Date of birth: 13 December 1957
Position: Number eight
Matches: 48
Tests: 22
Test debut: 8 November 1986 v France, Toulouse
Last test: 23 June 1990 v Scotland, Auckland
Province: North Harbour
Test tries: 5
Test points: 20