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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Buck's All Blacks fizz
Wayne Shelford looks on in training with Saracens
Shelford played his fair share of bruising encounters

In the latest of BBC Sport Online's weekly rugby union series, Saracens coach and former New Zealand number 8 Wayne Shelford talks about his days playing in the great All Blacks side of the late 1980s.


If ever there was one moment when Wayne "Buck" Shelford embedded his name forever into rugby's rich history, it was during the infamous "Battle of Nantes" in 1986.

Playing only his second Test for the All Blacks against a physically intimidating French side, Shelford found himself at the bottom of a rather aggressive ruck on 20 minutes.

An errant Les Bleus stud found its way to his groin, where it somehow managed to tear his scrotum, leaving one testicle hanging out.

Wayne Shelford factfile

This alone would leave most men screaming in agony and heading for the nearest hospital. But not Shelford.

He calmly instructed the physio to stitch him up.

The French public were gobsmacked as an over-eager pitchside cameraman filmed the stomach-turning surgery, and even more so when Shelford returned to the field and carried on playing.

"I was knocked out cold, lost a few teeth and had a few stitches down below," recalls the Saracens coach.

"It's a game I still can't remember - I have no memory of it whatsoever.

"I had to watch a video to realise what the game was actually like. I don't even remember what the score was, I don't really want to either."

Just for the record, New Zealand lost 16-3. It was the only time Shelford was on the losing side during his distinguished international career, a result which he appropriately describes as a "faux pas".

"It was one of the toughest Test matches I have ever played," he said.


I used to have buck teeth when I was younger, that's probably how I got the nickname
Wayne Shelford

"There were six of us carrying injuries onto the football pitch. Touring France is quite a brutal experience and the situation was made worse because we only had a touring party of 26.

"But we got back that defeat when we won the World Cup the following year."

Ah yes, that invincible All Blacks side of 1987. Esteemed members of rugby's cognoscenti have argued that team was the greatest 15 ever to have graced a rugby field.

Shelford, for one, tends to agree.

"There weren't a lot of new All Blacks injected into the team between 1987 to 1990, so the team stayed the same," he said.

When I began my career, there were already some great players in there like Andy Haden and Dave Loveridge, one of the best half-backs I ever played with.

"Then there was the young and upcoming star John Kirwan, as well as the brilliant David Kirk.

"And Michael Jones turned up just after we won the World Cup in 1987. He's the greatest flanker New Zealand has ever produced outside of Waka Nathan."

Zinzan Brooke on the charge for New Zealand
Shelford's rivalry with Zinzan Brooke was legendary

His international career came to a controversial end when he was "unceremoniously dumped" from the All Blacks in 1990, in favour of a young loose forward by the name of Zinzan Brooke.

"I still feel I had another season to go," he reflects.

"But Zinny was the youngster coming through and I had to keep him out. It took him a while to take the position off me though."

One question still remains unanswered - why "Buck"?

"I used to have buck teeth when I was younger, that's probably how I got the nickname," he said with a toothy smile.

"My teeth came first and the body second.

"It's stuck with me ever since I was a little fella and it's still here with me today."

And that name still has demi-God status in New Zealand to this very day and many, many more to come.


Rugby heroes
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