England fall to All Blacks' passion

England face New Zealand today as World Cup holders. It was rather different when the teams met in 1985. Sam Wheeler reports.

Until 10 years ago, New Zealand expected to meet minimal resistance when they played England, especially on home soil.

England had won in New Zealand just once before last year's narrow success. In 1985, England were not even masters of their own small island, let alone of the world. That year, they had won just one of their Five Nations' matches.

The All Blacks had an aura of invincibility. Two years later, they would romp to the title at the first World Cup in Australia. They were professional in everything but name while England were still totally amateur. Several players, including Rory Underwood, missed the trip because of work commitments.

Where Sir Clive Woodward has a small army of specialists honing every aspect of the team's preparation, wing Mike Harrison says: "we didn't even have a doctor – a dentist was our doctor."

Lock John Orwin sums up the perception of England's chances. "We were expected to get our backsides kicked," he says.

It was seen as a minor triumph that England lost the first Test by the small margin of 18-13. The four Yorkshiremen in England's starting line-up that day – there was another on the bench – are united in the view that the tourists should have won, having outscored their hosts by two tries to none.

Prop Paul Huntsman, who was making his debut, said: "It would have been a brilliant achievement. There were a couple of dodgy penalties and if we had been a bit more experienced, we might have done it.

"But those were the days when England were almost happy to lose, as long as we played well. We obviously wanted to win but if we

didn't, it wasn't the end of the world. In New Zealand, they only wanted to win."

Scrum-half Nigel Melville added: "They were virtually professional at the time. Their players didn't really work, and ours did. We were happy to get that close."

Orwin remembers that the England players were paid 12 a day for being on tour. "You wouldn't get their breakfasts for that these days," he laughs. "But at the time, it seemed wonderful. The game has totally changed since our day. I wouldn't have minded the money of the modern era but you can't look backwards."

England's side was still picked by an RFU selection committee, who had to look at players from more than 30 clubs. Woodward picks from 11 clubs and it is rare that more than a couple of his choices are contentious.

Huntsman never figured again and players of the quality of Harrison and Melville won barely a handful of caps. Flanker Peter Winterbottom, who had been player of the series for the Lions in New Zealand in 1983, had been left out, as had young stand-off Rob Andrew.

New Zealand were lambasted for their performance in the first Test and duly delivered in the second with a record 42-15 triumph.

Harrison recalls their approach: "They were so hard. The ball went into touch. I pulled the ball off centre Steve Pokere, he had a swipe at me, I had a swipe at him. Normally that would have been regarded as a bit of handbags between two backs and everyone would have had a laugh about it but the next thing I knew, I got given a haymaker from behind from (flanker) Cowboy Shaw. I managed to stay on my feet but all hell broke loose. It was nothing, but in New Zealand, they don't take any prisoners.

"It was our biggest defeat at that time but it didn't matter to me. I really enjoyed it."

It is hard to imagine Martin Johnson saying that about a game.

1985 teams

New Zealand: K Crowley; C Green, W Taylor, S Pokere, J Kirwan; W Smith, D Kirk; J Ashworth, A Dalton (capt), G Knight, M Pierce, G Whetton, J Hobbs, M Shaw, M Mexted.

England: H Davies; M Harrison, P Dodge (capt), J Salmon, S Smith; S Barnes, N Melville; P Huntsman, S Brain, G Pearce, S Bainbridge, J Orwin, D Cooke, J Hall, M Teague.

Bryan Barley

Born: Wakefield

Age: 44

Position: Centre

Caps: Seven (one try)

Debut: v Ireland, February 18 1984

Last Test: v Fiji, June 17 1988

Clubs: Wakefield, Sandal

Occupation: Insurance broker

A gifted distributor, Barley suffered on the New Zealand tour because Paul Dodge was captain of the party and Jamie Salmon was returning to the country he had represented before committing himself to England.

With tactical replacements not permitted, "Buffer" had to watch from the stands.

"It was not an enjoyable tour," says Barley. "We were all much of a muchness and it could have gone either way."

Barley, who worked for a Wakefield insurance firm throughout his playing days, believes that he might have won more caps had he played for a more fashionable club.

Even though they played 22 times between them within the same four-year span, Barley and Mike Harrison never appeared in the same international. England missed out on the understanding that served Wakefield, Yorkshire and the North so well.

Barley still turns out for Sandal veterans. He is refusing to retire before Harrison does – and vice versa. With Wakefield Cougars moving to Sandal, the possibility remains that two of Yorkshire's finest will be reunited.

Mike harrison

Born: Barnsley

Age: 48

Position: Wing

Caps: 15 caps (seven as captain, eight tries)

Debut: v New Zealand, June 1 1985

Last Test: v Wales, February 6 1988

Clubs: Wakefield, Wakefield Cougars

Occupation: Banker

England's captain for the first World Cup might never have played a Test had Rory Underwood been fit for the 1985 tour.

"I was the last person picked," says Harrison, a loyal Wakefield man who repeatedly turned down offers to join bigger clubs, moves that would almost certainly have accelerated his rise to the England team. "I had been knocking on the door for two or three years and I was just delighted to get on my first tour."

The slender, elusive Harrison won his first cap at the age of 29 and made an instant impact, scoring interception tries in each Test against the All Blacks.

He nailed down a regular place in the side and went on to take over the captaincy in 1987, by which time he was 31. His scoring record of eight tries in 15 Tests hints at what he could have achieved had he been picked earlier.

Harrison, who works for Swedish bank Handelsbanken, continues to play for Yorkshire Four club Wakefield Cougars. He has switched to scrum-half and has no plans to retire.

nigel melville

Born: Leeds

Age: 43

Position: Scrum-half

Caps: 13 (seven as captain)

Debut: v Australia, November 3 1984

Last Test: v Ireland, March 19 1988

Clubs: Otley, Wasps, Headingley, Wakefield

Occupation: Director of rugby at Gloucester

ONE of the most naturally talented scrum-halves to have played for England, Melville's career was wrecked by injury.

His distribution, decision-making, leadership and tactical kicking were second to none but perhaps he was physically too frail to survive at the highest level. Had he played in the professional era, he might have been able to build himself up and been better able to withstand the knocks.

Melville had three separate spells as England captain. Having taken over from Mike Harrison midway through the 1988 Five Nations', his international career ended when he was stretchered off the field against Ireland. The captaincy passed to John Orwin, who became the third of England's five captains that year – the others were Richard Harding and Will Carling.

After a spell coaching Otley, Melville, who worked for Nike in his playing days, took over at Wasps at the start of the professional era. He moved to Gloucester two years ago, leading them to the Powergen Cup and the top of the Premiership in his first season.

john orwin

Born: Wibsey

Age: 50

Position: Lock

Caps: 14 (three as captain)

Debut: v Romania, January 5 1985

Last Test: v Australia, June 12 1988

Clubs: RAF, Chichester, Gloucester, Norwich, Bedford, Morley, Wibsey, Datchworth, Biggleswade

Occupation: Engineer

Born within a stone's throw of Odsal, Orwin did not play rugby union until he joined the RAF as a 17-year-old. "The forces didn't play rugby league," he says.

The RAF took him all over the country, which partially explains why he played for so many clubs, although he continued to move around after he left. After a spell as a publican in Bedford, Orwin worked in Yorkshire for a water company and then returned to Bedfordshire, where he works in engineering.

He will be best remembered for his role on England's ill-fated tour of Australia in 1988. He received a barrage of criticism and was dropped. Will Carling took over as captain the following autumn.

"I felt the press reports were a bit unfair," says Orwin, who still turns out for Biggleswade's first XV despite recently turning 50. "I was labeled as one of the worst England captains ever. There were several things going on on that tour that I wasn't happy about. But I was 35 at the time and I always knew it would be a short tenure."

paul huntsman

Born: Beverley

Age: 47

Position: Loose-head prop

Caps: Two

Debut: v New Zealand, June 1 1985

Last Test: v New Zealand, June 8 1985

Clubs: Wasps, Headingley

Occupation: Gym owner

HUNTSMAN retired from rugby at 31, an age when most props are reaching their peak. "I had a string of injuries and I got disheartened," he said.

Injuries had undermined his chances of cementing a place in the England side after a successful introduction to Test rugby in 1985. He never played another full international, although he continued to be a key player for Yorkshire and the North.

Hymers-educated Huntsman spent a couple of seasons with Wasps when he was at teacher training college in Reading and taught PE for five years at Ermysted's GS, Skipton, when he returned to Yorkshire.

When he finished with Headingley, he moved back to East Yorkshire, lecturing sports science part-time and opening the River View gym in Beverley. He coached for a short period with Old Hymerians – who later merged with the remnants of Hull and East Riding to become Hull RUFC.

Huntsman, who lives in Cherry Burton, has little involvement with the game, although he does occasionally turn out for "classic" sides on tour, alongside other former internationals.