Rugby: Veteran ABs finally get test caps

Greats gather . . . (from left) Eric Watson (All Black coach 1979-80), Ray Bell (1951), Frank...
Greats gather . . . (from left) Eric Watson (All Black coach 1979-80), Ray Bell (1951), Frank McAtamney (1956) and Bevan Wilson (1977-79).
It was a special night for Otago's Don Clark and Ian "Spooky" Smith when they received their All Black test caps at the awards ceremony at Carisbrook last night.

They both made their test debuts at Carisbrook on August 15, 1964, when the Wallabies were beaten 14-9.

It was the first of six All Blacks test capping ceremonies to be held across the country this year.

Twenty-seven former All Blacks, or their families, received the caps they earned for their first All Blacks test appearance.

Clark (69), a flanker, replaced Waka Nathan, who tore an Achilles tendon, and Smith played on the right wing.

"You were playing for the All Blacks and representing all the other rugby players in the country so you went out to do your best," Clark told the Otago Daily Times.

"Attending an All Black dinner tonight is very special. It is good to meet people you played with and against again."

Smith (67) went on the 1963-64 United Kingdom tour but did not play in any tests.

"The best part of tonight is to meet up with the old guys you played with years ago," he said.

"A feature of rugby in those days was the fraternity and the get-together after the game.

"You became the best of friends with those you played with and, especially, those you played against."

Smith farms at Peel Forest, in Canterbury, and Clark at Bannockburn.

Two other farmers who played for Otago received their All Blacks caps last night.

Frank McAtamney (75), who farms at Woodbury, near Geraldine, propped the All Blacks scrum in the second test against the Springboks in 1956.

The Springboks won 8-3.

Bevan Wilson (53), from Omakau, made his debut at Carisbrook in 1977 when the All Blacks beat the Lions 19-7.

He kicked eight of the All Blacks points.

"Its almost unbelievable. I can't believe I've got this honour as it was so long ago when I played for the All Blacks," Wilson said.

"It was a great thrill to play in that test. There were six changes in the All Black team and it was a changing of the guard."

The oldest former All Black to receive his cap last night was Ray Bell (83), who made his debut against Australia at Brisbane in 1951 when the All Blacks won 16-6.

The tradition of capping lapsed after World War 2 and was not reintroduced until 1997.

Among those capped were the late Haig brothers, Jimmy and Laurie, whose caps were received by family members, and five players who made their test debuts at Carisbrook.

As a further honour, 17 of the capped players will form a guard of honour for the All Blacks and French teams as they take the field at Carisbrook tonight.

The list of All Blacks who received caps last night, with the year of their first game, are:Jimmy Haig (1946), Peter Johnstone (1949), Hector Wilson (1949), Laurie Haig (1950), Philip Gard (1971), Jack McNab (1949) and Neil Purvis (1976) deceased; Ray Bell (1951), Frank McAtamney (1956), Tuppy Diack (1959), Kevin Laidlaw (1960), Ian Smith (1964), Don Clark (1964), Jack Hazlett (1966), Tom Lister (1968), Laurie Mains (1971), Jeff Matheson (1972), Lyn Jaffray (1972), Ian Hurst (1973), Terry Morrison (1973), Doug Bruce (1976), Bevan Wilson (1977), Leicester Rutledge (1978), Wayne Graham (1979), Arthur Stone (1981), John Timu (1991) and Simon Culhane (1995).

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