Shayne Philpott
2 caps

We might be a stadium off our million, as the Rugby World Cup people have it - but we are also a national posse of trenchant rugby critics. Philpott's recent decision to sell his All Black cap after being named at the head of a list of "teacher's pets" in sport shows just how deep the wounds can cut.

Regarded as a player lucky to have been selected, Philpott also suffered from a perceived family link to then All Black coach Alex Wyllie. Philpott said listing the cap on Trade Me "wasn't a money thing" but a reaction to the kind of comments he has had to endure for the last 20 years.

"I had tended to disassociate myself with the fact that I ever was an All Black, although I do get reminded from time to time. I'm more proud of the fact that I won two club finals with Burnside and played 113 games for Canterbury. I didn't go to the capping ceremony [in 2009] to be presented my cap amongst other All Blacks, I had it posted to me."


Sad stuff. In fact, Philpott - while never a top-drawer All Black - was a good player who, at first-class level, played every backline position except halfback, making him an ideal utility choice as an All Black tourist.

He may never have made it to the All Blacks' top flight in that era but then Wayne Shelford's team of 1988-1989 were one of the most powerful All Black units in history.

- Paul Lewis

Reuben Thorne
50 caps

Reuben Thorne might rightly wonder why he never won over a sceptical public despite playing 50 tests and captaining the All Blacks in 23. He might point to the fact he convinced four different All Black coaches to select him, made a record number of appearances for the Crusaders (who have not won a title without him) and was virtually begged back into the All Black fold in 2006 when senior players were almost mutinous at his non-selection.

Yet for all his achievements, for all that he earned the respect of his peers, Thorne had to put up with monikers all his career; hurtful stuff like 'Captain Invisible', while he was also regularly referred to as a non playing captain.

His crime, it seemed, was being relentlessly Cantabrian - he had a quiet, calm demeanour that reflected how he played. He was a hard worker, a grafter who didn't have the explosive defensive power of Jerry Collins or much in the way of ball-carrying clout.

His value was his workrate and in his ability to do the thankless chores at the bottom of rucks. Players like Thorne never persuade public opinion they are worthwhile because their work goes mostly unseen.

But they do impress coaches who monitor stats and fellow players who know who is fronting and who is showboating.

- Gregor Paul

Colin Farrell
2 caps

Rugby can be a cruel sport. Farrell was a talented runner and counter attacker, regarded highly in Auckland where he was often at his best in Ranfurly Shield matches. However, not all the selectorial decisions made at this time were scientifically based. The All Blacks were facing a good Lions side in 1977 and were short of fullbacks.

The selectors tried to persuade winger Bryan Williams to take the job but, reluctant to do so, he suggested the uncapped Farrell instead.

The selectors jumped at the idea but Farrell seemed to have a huge attack of nerves, committing error after error the first test, won narrowly by the All Blacks. After facing a storm of criticism, the selectors stood by him for the second test. He was only marginally better and, just as suddenly as it began, Farrell's All Black career was over, accompanied by a flood of derision.

- Paul Lewis

Justin Marshall
81 caps

If Justin Marshall came across as a little combustible throughout his career, it was maybe not surprising.

He spent most of it hearing what an awful passer he was. If such criticism was aimed at a prop or lock, no biggie - but for a halfback, whose core skill is passing, to constantly be told he's no good at the most important part of his game...that could become a little tiresome.

It was especially so when testing done by the All Blacks showed that Marshall was consistently the quickest passer in New Zealand.

The time it took Marshall to clear the ball from the ground to first five was quicker than any of his rivals.

Yet the perception existed that he was a great running halfback, a great tactician but slow, cumbersome and inaccurate when it came to clearing the ball.

An 81-test All Black and a virtual automatic selection between 1996 and 2004, Marshall was the focus of endless public debate. Every other nation would have celebrated his qualities. New Zealanders spent most of his career analysing his faults and wondering whether Byron Kelleher was a better player.

- Gregor Paul

Mark Carter
7 caps

Rugby's geographical divides can be blamed for much of the opprobrium heaped onMark Carter's All Black career.

Another to have been damaged by the "teacher's pet" label, Carter was a dangerous, marauding flanker with good ball and continuity skills. He was a key member of John Hart's hugely well-performed Auckland teams.

Hart wasn't alone. Then Auckland coach Graham Henry often preferred Carter at 7 instead of the great Michael Jones (who played 6). However, many points south of the Bombay Hills did not agree with opinions regarding Carter's expertise and he was heavily criticised, with his selection also seen as coming from the influential hand of Hart. South Island fans were particularly voluble and he was one of those heavily blamed for the All Blacks' 1991 semifinal loss to Australia in the 1991 World Cup - where he had been selected ahead of Southland's go-getting flanker, Paul Henderson.

So the screams were shrill when he was selected for the All Blacks again, in 1997-98, after returning from a spell in league and after Hart's return as All Black coach. He was subbed off in his last test, in 1998, against Australia (when the All Blacks were in the process of losing five tests in a row) and never returned to All Black ranks.

- Paul Lewis

Stephen Donald
22 caps

Life is tough when you are not Daniel Carter but are asked to try to pretend that you are. Donald's entire test career has carried an impossible burden of expectation - a mere mortal stepping in to cover for a Rugby God.

Criticism for Donald has been inevitable but the intensity of the vitriol has surpassed the boundaries of acceptability at times.

Donald really struggled in 2009 when Carter was recovering from his Achilles injury. His kicking, his passing and his decision-making provided hours of nasty talkback radio.

Worse was to come late last year when Donald came on for the last 15 minutes of the test against Australia in Hong Kong. He missed a kickable penalty, then failed to put the ball into touch in the final minute to kill the game. Australia, of course, scrambled the try from Donald's kick and the nation went rabid. Rarely if ever has one player been subjected to such a volume of abuse that flooded websites, blogs, social media pages and mainstream media.

Even the All Black coaches commented that they were surprised by the venom while Donald tried to block it out.

He said: "From the texts of my genuine friends and emails from my genuine friends I guess I was aware of what was going on, but certainly I didn't go investigating what you were all saying about me, no."

- Gregor Paul

Bernie McCahill
10 caps

Unfortunately and unfairly figures in many "worst All Black" lists - but this personable and talented midfielder didn't deserve much of the criticism that rained down on him. Again, it was fans outside Auckland that provided most abuse although there was plenty of debate when he was selected ahead of Walter Little at second five-eighths for the 1991 World Cup; Little going on to have a highly successful midfield pairing with Frank Bunce.

McCahill also diced with Bunce for a spot in the Auckland team although, at that time, Bunce hadn't quite the presence that later made him an All Blacks fixture. McCahill was a skilled distributor and support player - features that knitted well into the All Blacks style of the time - and, in spite of all the criticism he copped, still served the All Blacks in two World Cups; something that most of us haven't done.

- Paul Lewis

Taine Randell
51 caps

Like Reuben Thorne, Taine Randell couldn't convince the nation he was worthy of his place - let alone the right man to be captain. Thrust into the job when he was 23, he had the misfortune to be at the helm when the All Blacks endured their worst year in history. Losing five consecutive games was a horrible way to start his tenure and, while it's unlikely the results would have been different under any other leader, Randell was forever stigmatised.

It didn't help that his own versatility made him an excellent choice for the bench but not necessarily the right man to start in the loose trio. A captain who doesn't convince as being worthy of his place will always be the subject of fierce derision. When the All Blacks collapsed in the semifinal of the 1999 World Cup, Randell was drowned in a tirade of bile, his critics irate the captain was heard squealing to the referee that his testicles were being grabbed.

No one could imagine Sean Fitzpatrick or Buck Shelford squealing.

There would have been a bleeding French player lying at the bottom of a ruck semi-conscious if either of those two had been subjected to nonsense like that.

- Gregor Paul

Allan Hewson
19 caps

Allan Hewson could have made 100 tackles in one game and still been subjected to hours of commentaryon how he was a weak defender, a poor tackler and lacking in heart. It seemed he was never going to shake the perception of being a poor defender; of not being physically equipped for test football; of being a bit of a Jessie. Cantabrians were especially critical of Hewson, largely because he kept their favourite, Robbie Deans, out of the test side. It didn't help Hewson that, after being selected for the All Black tour of England and Scotland in 1979, coach Eric Watson then made no secret of his belief that the fullback was riddled with shortcomings.

He was, however, also a supremely talented ball player, runner and goalkicker. While he might have been defensively frail, Hewson kicked critical goals - the winner against the Boks at Eden Park in 1981 - and formed an exceptional counter-attacking back three with Bernie Fraser and Stu Wilson. But all his career he was dogged by his critics.

- Gregor Paul

Caleb Ralph
14 caps

Pretty much since the dawn of the professional age, New Zealand has been awash with explosive wings who can beat men one-on-one with a combination of pace, power and fast feet. The continued selection of

Caleb Ralph - who was not such a player - in 2002 and the early part of 2003 made him the subject of many a disparaging discussion. These did not praise his low error rate, his dependability and excellent work rate.

They focused on how a player seen as exceptionally limited was able to keep others such as Jonah Lomu and Christian Cullen out of the team.

When it comes to wings, New Zealanders want glamour, strike power and tries. They don't want solid grafters with good technical skills, which is precisely what Ralph was. Thankfully All Black coach John Mitchell had the good sense to drop Ralph after starting him against England in 2003. Ralph suffered the indignity of trying to kick the ball down his wing, only to take an air shot and then trip over the ball.

- Gregor Paul