NEW ZEALAND DIVISIONAL RUGBY TEAM

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In February 1918 the Divisional “All Blacks” were reformed. They played the 38th (Welsh) Division team on 12 February, winning 14-3, in preparation for a game against a French Army team in Paris, at Parc de Princes, on 17 February. This film shows snippets of the match as well as the team sightseeing in Paris as they toured points of interest by charabanc leading up to the game, including the Bois de Boulogne, Arc de Triomphe and Les Invalides on the 16th and the Palace of Versailles on the 18th.

The film is significant as it is one of only three films that survive, from the large number shot, showing the New Zealand Divisional “All Blacks” rugby team in action during World War One. (The others are F4330 REVIEW OF NEW ZEALAND TROOPS BY HON WALTER LONG & F4517 SEEING SIGHTS OF PARIS BEFORE FOOTBALL MATCH).

An American Army Officer, chosen for his neutrality, Lt A. S. Muhr refereed the match but forgot how long the game should go for: 30 minutes was played in the first half, 45 for the second. The match was won by New Zealand 5-3 and “[i]t was a case of a magnificent team of athletes [France] playing a half-trained team of footballers [New Zealand]... It was a lucky New Zealand win.” (Chronicles of the NZEF, Vol. IV, no.39, 13 March 1918, p.56). The result was widely reported in newspapers throughout New Zealand and also in the English press:

“Both victors and vanquished received a tremendous ovation from the crowd which invaded the ground and carried in triumph the members of the French team, who had played a splendid game. The whole French team is to be congratulated... As for the victors there is nothing to be said except that they showed themselves worthy of their reputation.” (Sporting Life).

“No football match played in Paris created greater interest than that between soldiers of New Zealand and French Armies. New Zealand was represented by a team considered by all equal to any Colonial pre-war team, although less trained; but the French fifteen, which included nine aviators, three tank officers, and two second-lieutenants escaped from Germany recently, played better and faster than any pre-war national team. Play was even in the first half, and in the second France kept the direction of the game until the last five minutes..." (Evening Standard, 18 February 1918. Extracts from Chronicles of the NZEF, Vol. IV, no.38, 27 February 1918).

The film opens with a Paris street scene showing New Zealand team getting into a horsed charabanc outside the Hotel de Paris for a tour of the sights of the city. After driving through the Bois de Boulogne the team inspect captured war trophies at Les Invalides in a scene where the cameraman H. A. Sanders has obviously thought out his angles. The film cuts to their visit to the Palace of Versailles, and then shows footage of the match at the Parc de Princes. The difficulties of filming a rugby match with a single camera from the sidelines are clearly demonstrated, but the shots of the crowd and of the two teams taking the field capture much of the atmosphere of the occasion as well as the spirit of the two teams: compare the dour look of the New Zealanders with the French who walk on brimming with Gallic insouciance with coats still worn or draped over their shoulder. Clearly shown here is the New Zealand Captain Sapper G. Murray and Vice Captain A. “Ranji” Wilson; the lady kicking off is Violet Russell, daughter of Maj Gen Sir Andrew Russell. The film closes with the charabanc driving past the Arc de Triomphe.

From notes by Chris Pugsley.

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Year 1918

Reference number F4332

Collection Film and Video Collection

Media type Moving Image

Place of Production NEW ZEALAND/AOTEAROA

Genre Actuality

Duration 0:09:32

Production company New Zealand Official War Film

Credits Camera: Henry A. Sanders
Distribution (NZ): New Zealand Picture Supplies
Distribution (UK): Pathé Frères

Related Link Watch this film online: IWM 172 - NEW ZEALAND DIVISIONAL RUGBY TEAM