Rugby: The day Otago's Seear gave the French the boot

Gary Seear
Gary Seear
Gary Seear knows how to beat the French, and not just by getting over the tryline.

Seear, who played 116 games for Otago, made his test debut at No 8 against France in Toulouse in November 1977.

That day Seear was on the losing side for the All Blacks, beaten 18-13 in the south of France.

But a week later the All Blacks came back with new tactics, playing the game at pace, with short line-outs and running it from everywhere, to run all over France 15-3 in Paris.

Included in that scoreline was a penalty from Seear.

He knocked over a penalty from 45m, after a Frenchman was penalised in a ruck.

Seear, who also occasionally succeeded at long-range penalty kicks for Otago, said the penalty was too far out for All Black fullback Brian McKechnie, so he stepped up to "have a crack".

"I'd always been having kicks at practice and trainings so I thought I'd have a go," Seear said.

Seear's successful penalty stretched the lead to 9-0 and France was never really in the game.

It was an eventful match for Seear, who said he was eye-gouged by a French player to get the penalty that he knocked over.

He also made a run close to the line, which the French cleared, but only to fullback McKechnie who knocked over a dropped goal for the first points in the match.

Seear said the All Blacks, after debriefing the first test loss, decided to move to a speedier game plan.

But those were in the days of no closed practices, so the All Blacks had little time to work on their new moves.

"We caught them unaware as we had been training the same way the whole week. The only time we got to practise our short line-outs was in the hotel car park the morning of the match. Then we only had half an hour before the gendarmes told us to go away."

He said the tactics used by the All Blacks completely knocked out the French.

"Andy Haden could speak French and we knew by half-time we had them.

He could hear them talking to each other, saying they were buggered."

Seear would go on to play 12 tests and a total of 34 matches for the All Blacks, playing every test on the 1978 Grand Slam tour.

He scored 46 points, including two penalty goals and two conversions.

Now living in Christchurch and selling commercial real estate, the 57-year-old said he was still an Otago supporter and would be in Dunedin for the test against France.

He enjoyed touring France, and returned in 2007 to follow the All Blacks in the World Cup, but had only just arrived when the All Blacks were knocked out in the quarterfinal by France in Cardiff.

"There were a few dirty people around that night. In the end we had a very good holiday, as we did not have to worry about the rugby."

 

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