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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
Uncovering the Maori mystery
Daryl Gibson in action
The Maoris have an enviable record against touring sides
When Clive Woodward's England team run out against the New Zealand Maori on Monday they will face one of rugby's most feared opponents.

Here, BBC Sport offers a brief glimpse into the long and illustrious history of the Maori team.

  • 1. Maori rugby has a long heritage which dates back to the late 19th century, though it was not until 1910 that the first official Maori team took to the field.

  • 2. Tom Ellison, who captained the first New Zealand team in 1893, also introduced the prototype of the 'All Black' jersey and silver fern. He was later to become one of the most influential figures in New Zealand rugby history and wrote perhaps the game's first coaching book in 1902.

  • 3. The most celebrated Maori side in history remains the 1926/7 touring side. In a seven month tour of Australia, Ceylon, France, Wales and Canada, the side played 38 matches, winning 29, losing seven and drawing two. Controversially, their most respected player, full-back George Nepia was left at home after missing the boat from Wellington.

  • 4. The 'Native' Team of 1888 which toured New Zealand, Australia and Britain, playing 108 matches in total, was reportedly also the first to introduce the Haka to rugby during their match on 3 October against Surrey.

  • 5. All Black Christian Cullen's selection in this year's Maori side was widely criticised. While the New Zealand rugby public were aware of Cullen's Samoan and German ancestry, few were aware he has Maori blood. Cullen's father, admitting that his son was around 1/64th Maori, added: "You only need a little fingernail don't you?"

  • 6. The furore surrounding Cullen's Maori credentials is nothing new. In 1927 Frank Solomon, born in Western Samoa and with no Maori connections, was chosen for their internal tour, while Alan 'Kiwi' Blake, of Afro-American parentage, represented the Maori from 1948-52 and even captained the team in 1950.

  • 7. In 1970, Maori players Sid Going, 'Buff' Milner and Blair Furlong became the first players to break the apartheid restrictions when they played for the All Blacks on their tour of South Africa.

  • 8. The Tom French Cup is awarded annually to the 'outstanding Maori player of the year'. The list of winners reads like a 'who's who' of New Zealand rugby history, and includes: Mac Herewini, Sid Going, Frano Botica, Wayne Shelford, and Zinzan Brooke. Current All Black fly-half Carlos Spencer won the trophy in 2002.

  • 9. The Maori record is enviable. They have defeated most major international sides and have come close to defeating the Lions. Between 1994-2001 the side racked up 24 successive wins - a run that included victories over Scotland in Edinburgh, England and Argentina.

  • 10. Since 2001, New Zealand Maori have performed their own haka, called "Timatanga", which describes the evolution of life and the creation of New Zealand from the four winds.

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