All-Blacks Suffered Poisoning Before Rugby World Cup Final In South Africa 1991, Test Match in Australia 1980, England 1924-25
Rugby is a Dangerous Game: There have been several instances recorded of All-Black players becoming poisoned just before international matches. I have heard of other international teams, and other sportsmen, coming down with mysterious food poisoning on the eve of an important match. This phenomenon is probably something to do with the betting that goes on in all of the international sports, more than that your opponent is dead-set on winning.
One very early All-Black poisoning incident which Ron Palenski talks about in his book “The Jersey” happened when “The Invincibles” All-Black team went on tour in 1924-1925. This was the ninth match of their tour, and they were about to play Cheshire at Birkenhead Park, in England. Ron Palenski gives a photo of the paper article which ‘The ‘Liverpool Post’ published at the time. The headline reads:
“Sensational Incident Of Their Visit To Merseyside. FIFTEEN MEN SEIZED BY ILLNESS. Mysterious Ailment Suspected To Be Ptomaine Poisoning.” The paper reported that all men were affected, but that eight of the fifteen had to be substituted because they were too ill to play.
“Eight members of the famous “All-Black” team, which is due to play against Cheshire at Birkenhead Park this afternoon, are suffering from an illness believed to be ptomaine poioning”, the paper read. The All-Blacks had to leave behind the Wing forward J.H. Parker, as well as the manager Stan Dean, who had to spend two days in bed recovering before catching up with the team in Sunderland. Apparently the All-Blacks laughed off the incident, with one player telling reporters that they must have eaten too much. They put it down to either a fish meal they had all had in Birmingham, before arriving in Liverpool. Either that, or it was the tonic powder they had bought at a chemist shop, said the captain Cliff Porter.
Maybe the All-Blacks remained very chirpy, taking the suspected ptomaine poisoning pretty lightly, because, even with eight substitutes, they won against Cheshire anyhow. The Score 18 to New Zealand, 5 to Cheshire.
The next big poisoning scare happened in Australia in 1980, on the eve of the deciding third test match between New Zealand and Australia. The All-Blacks were so ill that several had to leave the field mid-game. The result was that the All-Blacks lost this game.
The New Zealand All-Blacks became sick in South Africa in 1995, just before the Rugby Cup Final in Johannesburg. They blamed a meal which they all ate at the same hotel just a couple of nights before the big match. They all played, but their fitness levels were very low, and they lost the World Cup that year, just as they lost the test with Australia in 1980 after a similar attack of poisoning.
All-Blacks Stu Wilson and Bernie Fraser claimed that the poisoning was deliberate, and were convinced that it was a betting plot. They wrote a book called ‘Ebony and Ivory’ in which their views on the poisoning are elaborated.