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The greatest blindsides of all time: Alan Whetton

Alan Whetton trudging forward for the All Blacks Rugby World

Alan Whetton was one of the greatest blinside flankers of his time

Sep 15, 2016 10:06 AM EDT

Major teams: Auckland
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1984-91
Test caps: 35 (31 starts)
Test points: 40 (10T)

He was a mainstay at blindside for the All Blacks in the Eighties, playing many of his 35 Tests alongside his twin brother Gary, who plied his trade in the All Blacks engine room.

Whetton’s early appearances wearing the Silver Fern were inauspicious as he came on as a replacement in his first four Tests at lock. In 1986, before starting a Test for the All Blacks, Whetton had courted controversy by travelling to South Africa with the Cavaliers. It was a controversial tour that was seen as sympathetic to apartheid and he was duly banned for two games.

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Worse was to come on his full debut that year against Australia when he had, by his own admission, a poor game. In his disappointment he overdid the port post-match and such was his lack of sobriety that he had to be escorted to bed before the Test dinner. Rather than mope and lament his poor judgment, it was the making of him, as he got fit and forced his way into the starting line-up for Brian Lochore’s 1987 World Cup squad.

Playing in a feted back row that also included Buck Shelford and Michael Jones, the triumvirate proved a formidable unit as New Zealand swatted aside the likes of Italy, Wales and Scotland.

Whetton himself had a notable tournament, scoring in every game except the final against France. At Eden Park, his home ground with Auckland, he had an unusual pre-match ritual designed to boost his try scoring. “I’d go to each corner and imagine myself dotting down. I’d pat the grass and think, ‘That could be AJ’s spot – if I was lucky enough to keep up with JK or get rid of that monstrous winger Sean Fitzpatrick!”

He was renowned for his support play, pace on the blind side and work at the breakdown, and he remained a regular fixture in the side until bowing out in the 1991 World Cup semi-final against the Wallabies.

Domestically, he played for Auckland more than 150 times before retiring to take up a three-year coaching stint with Kobe Steelers in Japan.

Nowadays he works in digital sports signage at stadiums and is a regular media pundit in New Zealand.

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