James Mortimer 15.Jun.2013Getty Images
That inaugural Test, which will be 109 years and two months to the day tonight, was played before the team received the moniker ‘All Blacks’, although it only took until their second Test, played against the touring British and Irish Lions in 1904, for the world to bolt up and take notice of this small little nation that would one day be viewed as rugby union’s pacesetter.
DID YOU KNOW that the first All Blacks captain was Dunedin born first five-eighth Jimmy Duncan?
Despite whitewashing Australia 3-0, the Lions went down 9-0 to New Zealand at a typically windy Athletic Park in Wellington in 1904, but that fixture has somewhat faded as the year to follow would be a watershed year for the All Blacks – a journey that really began on the 2nd September 1905 at Tahuna Park, where the men wearing the silver fern won 14-3 against Australia, still to have a team cross their try line in three Tests.
That match set the tone for their massive overseas tour, where a team history now recognises as ‘The Originals’ toured, and while Scottish forward John Cameron MacCallum became the first man in history to score a Test try against the All Blacks, the tour, with a 34 win from 35 match ledger, cemented what many classical scribes in the North would romantically suggest started the legend and myth of the team - despite the Northern modern pen striving hard to chip away at that aura at times.
While that Welsh defeat, the All Blacks first Test reverse in history, hurt, it was offset by the fact that it would not be partnered with another loss until 1910, when Australia managed to win one Test in a three match series held over seven days.
Wales were at the time however considered the strongest Test nation, having won Triple crowns in 1900, 1902 and 1905 while being the first Northern team to down New Zealand.
Until the All Blacks met the Springboks for the first time in 1921, deemed by some to be the first unofficial World Championship, New Zealand had only been beaten in Test combat three times over their opening 24 Test matches.
The All Blacks first ever match against South Africa in a sanctioned Test match, their 25th, began a rivalry that saw the Springboks hold court in the amateur era, winning 21 Tests to the All Blacks 18 up until 1995, but since then New Zealand has had what is a remarkable upper hand in the contest considering the Republic was their final frontier, with the All Blacks winning 30 Tests in 43 internationals against the Boks in the professional era.
When the Second World War broke out, the All Blacks had played 60 Test matches, fashioning a 66.7% winning rate, six better than their famed rivals the Springboks.
Naturally with the Southern Hemisphere having no structured international competition at the time, with the North well in the midst of the Home and Five Nations, England, the most successful European side before 1939, had competed in 200 Tests, winning 110 (France currently have played the most Tests in history, with 686).
Resuming action after World War Two saw the All Blacks again face Australia, winning 31-8, while in 1949 the All Blacks suffered their heaviest ever series defeat, losing 4-0 to the Springboks, who would have had significant claim to being the dominant power of those times.
In 1959, the All Blacks hosted the Lions and claimed the series 3-1, falling to the famous tourists 9-6 in what was then New Zealand’s 100th Test fixture. At the time the All Blacks had a 66% winning record, but had scored a remarkable 281 tries in their first 100 games, well beyond any other nation.
Between 1960 and 1982, the All Blacks next 100 Test matches, the dominance shifted up a gear as 73 Tests would be won in this time, including victory on their 200th Test match in 1982 in Christchurch against the Wallabies.
Defeating all the Home Unions on their tours in 1963-64 and again in 1967 saw New Zealand begin to take a grip on world rugby, with their fist tightening with a 1965 win against the Springboks and the establishment of a new Tier One rugby record – winning 17 straight matches between 1965 and 1970.
As the professional era approached, the All Blacks following 100 Tests would see them win 78, including winning their 300th Test match the year the game ceased to be amateur v South Africa in 1996.
Since then, some might have suggested that the All Blacks weren’t quite the force they should have been, but the winning of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 put to bed arguments from enthusiastic Australians and South Africans who pointed to Webb Ellis ledgers.
In just under 110 years the All Blacks have played 499 Tests, winning 377 for a 75.6% winning record. They have scored 13,057 points while conceded 6,334 for an average scoreline of 26-13, while they have scored 1704 tries while letting in just 653, an aggregate of 3-1.
The professional era has seen the All Blacks claim 11 Tri-Nations/The Rugby Championship crowns, and their rivalry against Australia, New Zealand’s most prominent with 146 Test matches played, has seen the All Blacks win 99 while claiming the Bledisloe Cup 40 times to the Wallabies 12 – including a reign that is currently the second longest in history – with the All Blacks holding rugby’s biggest Cup since 2003.