We give you the 15 players who either didn’t live up to their potential, or just really disappointed in the hallowed black jersey.
- Prop – Jamie Macintosh – 1 Test (2008)
Nicknamed ‘Whopper’, he looked like a Whopper Junior on his debut against Scotland. So much promise coming out of Southland, but couldn’t even handle the Scottish scrum (albeit very brave).
- Hooker – Aled de Malmanche – 5 Tests (2009-10)
He was the only hooker who could throw straight in New Zealand at one point, hence his call-up to the All Blacks, and was a very strong runner also…when he caught the ball. The Chiefs No.2 came off the bench in all five of his appearances for the ABs.
- Prop – John Schwalger – 2 Tests (2007-08)
Schwalger was meant to be the next John Afoa, with the ability to play both sides of the scrum. Unfortunately, the Wellington product was only there to cover John Afoa for his only Test appearances.
- Lock – Jeremy Thrush – 15 Tests (2013-15)
If there was a list for top 5 luckiest players to make the All Blacks ever, Thrush would be on it. New Zealand has the two best locks in the world in Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. Luckily for Thrush, at the time of selection, the next three best locks were injured.
- Lock – James Broadhurst – 1 Test (2015)
Probably the form lock in the 2015 Super Rugby competition, but after his debut against South Africa, Steve Hansen gave Broadhurst some homework: Body Positioning 101.
- Flanker – Reuben Thorne – 50 Tests (1999-2007)
This bloke was actually captain of the All Blacks. The nickname ‘Captain Invisible’ says it all – never to be seen. Somehow managed 50 Tests. Bewilderingly worshipped by Cantabrians; understandably reviled by rugby supporters everywhere else in New Zealand.
- Flanker – Mark Carter – 7 Tests (1991-98)
Not many will know this player but he was the only All Black to be tormented by his own countrymen. A slow and painful ‘Car-ter, Car-ter, Car-ter’ rang around the stands of Carisbrook in his Test against Australia. There are rumours that he made the All Blacks because he was dating John Hart’s daughter. When his rugby union career stalled he tried his luck at rugby league with the Auckland Warriors, and now is on lists like this one for the 13-a-side code! Incredibly, Carter returned to union and was recalled by the All Blacks…who were coached by Hart.
- Number 8 – Sione Lauaki – 17 Tests (2005-08)
He used to run through defenders for fun in Super Rugby, but when he put on the black jersey it was his kryptonite. The infamous game against Australia where he knocked the ball on five times in eight minutes sums up his career for the All Blacks.
- Halfback – Brendon Leonard – 13 Tests (2007-09)
Leonard was a dynamic runner of the ball and his pass was pretty decent. Unfortunately, the Waikato scrum-feeder didn’t bring those attributes to the black jersey. He ran when he should have passed and passed when he should have ran.
- Flyhalf – Stephen Donald – 23 Tests (2008-11)
I should wash my mouth out with soap for putting the man who won New Zealand the Rugby World Cup in 2011 in a worst-ever XV, but let’s be honest, he was terrible for the All Blacks in 22 of his 23 Tests. Arguably the best player in Super Rugby for years, it wasn’t to be in the black jersey for ‘Beaver’, whose performance against the Wallabies in Hong Kong went down in NZ rugby infamy.
- Wing – Caleb Ralph – 14 Tests (1998-2003)
129 caps for the Crusaders, 58 tries. Those stats alone should have got him more than 14 Tests for the All Blacks. The Kiwis like their wingers to be big and explosive or fast and flashy. Ralph was none of these but did have a very low error rate – mainly because he didn’t do anything.
- Inside Centre – Tamati Ellison – 4 Tests (2009-12)
Still playing and playing well for the Rebels. He was behind the great Conrad Smith, which didn’t help, but I don’t think he has ever passed a ball in his life. Hey Tamati, there are people outside you!
- Outside Centre – Isaia Toeava – 36 Tests (2005-11)
They just kept picking him! He made the team at the young age of 19 after a great Junior World Cup performance. He hadn’t even played Super Rugby yet! ‘The Prodigy’ was meant to be a first-choice pick in the black jersey for years and was the next big thing. I guess the pressure got to him. Came off the bench in 16 of his 36 games for the ABs.
- Wing -Lelia Masaga – 1 Test (2009)
He gave himself the nickname ‘Flash’ and that’s what his performances for the Chiefs were like. Not much substance, but heaps of flash. He came to realise that you need more than flash to be an All Black, playing just one Test against Italy as a 22-year-old.
- Fullback – Ben Blair – 4 Tests (2001-02)
Scored 37 points in his All Black debut (not capped) against Ireland A, but it was all downhill from there. His 173cm, 80kg frame probably didn’t help his cause, but they had to give him a go after some great Super Rugby form for the Crusaders.