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Jeff Wilson crowns 'the fastest guy I've ever seen on a rugby field'

By Ned Lester
Jeff Wilson with the ball in hand for the All Blacks. Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images

Jeff Wilson may go down as the last athlete to ever represent both the All Blacks and New Zealand’s national men’s cricket team, the Black Caps. Now a broadcaster and avid rugby fan, he’s seen some athletes in his time.

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The All Blacks have seen their fair share of speedsters, and current players like Will Jordan and Rieko Ioane have been tearing the field apart in recent seasons. Meanwhile, abroad, the likes of Louis Rees-Zammit, Henry Arundell and Kurt-Lee Arendse’s speed was on full display for Wilson to witness in person at the Rugby World Cup.

But even with the pace of today’s superstars, it’s a former player who retired a decade ago whom Wilson crowned rugby’s ultimate speedster.

“There were a number of Fijians that I played against, who I don’t think I ever saw run at full speed because they didn’t need to,” Wilson told the All Blacks Podcast. “They only ever had to run just fast enough to stay out of reach. They were lightning.

“Rupeni Caucaunibuca is probably the fastest guy I’ve ever seen on a rugby field.”

Indeed the “Bua Bullet” was famous for his attacking prowess, and remembered as one of the great Fijian talents. His career was one that put a spotlight on Fijian rugby, but also one that taught the rugby world of the dangers and inequities of the professional game.

Wilson himself was known for his remarkable turn of pace and recalled the competitive edge he enjoyed within All Blacks camp.

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“The one thing that was important to me, was when I went to the All Black training camps and they did the speed testing, the fact that I always won those. I won that race. Clearly, I was trying the hardest, and we’re talking by just enough.

“Whereas I don’t think Joeli Vidiri who was there was really trying to run his fastest. Cully (Christian Cullen) was always trying pretty hard, clearly Jonah (Lomu) as well.

“If I’ve got something, at least I’m fast. I may not be able to tackle very well…”

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M
Mzilikazi 7 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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