Queen Elizabeth II has a long tradition of hosting visiting All Blacks sides to Britain during her reign. On the day she died, aged 96, we recounted some of the most memorable of those encounters.
The All Blacks concluded a historic tour of the United Kingdom in 1967, and before a resounding 23-11 victory against England at Twickenham, they were met by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip.
Before the game, the teams lined up, the Grenadier guards’ band performed stirring preludes, and the red carpet – or at least a canvas facsimile of a carpet – was rolled out.
The Queen then walked the red line and shook hands with the players and match officials, dazzling in a mustard-colored coat.
Brian Lochore joined her and introduced each of his guys individually.
Waka Nathan, a member of the 1967 team as well as earlier teams to see the Queen in the 1960s, said meeting her was an amazing event.
“It’s incredible to say I’ve visited Buckingham Palace, seen the Queen and Prince Philip, and when they came to New Zealand, I was welcomed onboard the Britannia and met the entire family.”
“I would never have met the Queen, Prince Philip, and the kids at Buckingham Palace in 1963, or gone to Clarence House and met the Queen Mother if I hadn’t been an All Black,” he said.
“They may be professional today, but they will never be able to conceal it from me. But I never took a photograph – I was useless.”
Sean Fitzpatrick, Jonah Lomu, Zinzan Brooke, and Frank Bunce were among the All Blacks players that visited Buckingham Palace in 1997, and Fitzpatrick presented her with autographed jerseys as gifts for Princes Harry and William.
The Queen was a tremendous fan of Lomu, whose death in 2015 prompted the queen to pay a personal homage to him.
Former All Blacks coach John Hart reported at the time that Queen Elizabeth II had extended her sympathies to the Lomu family, with the Prime Minister’s office assisting in relaying the message to his widow.
In 2005, a squad captained by Tana Umaga and coached by Graham Henry paid a visit to the Royals prior of the club’s remarkable 23-19 victory over England, in which they received three yellow cards but still won.
Queen Elizabeth II attended a ball with a difference in London in 2008, as part of the introduction of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, when she was met by the All Blacks as she was escorted through a large inflatable rugby ball near Tower Bridge.
The players welcomed the experience, according to then-captain Richie McCaw and coach Graham Henry, but they expected it would take some time to settle in.
“I was fortunate enough to meet them a couple of years ago, and it wasn’t until you returned home and said, ‘Oh, we got to meet the Queen and the Duke,’ that you realize people are sort of blown away by it,” McCaw said.
Henry felt the function was “very remarkable”.
“I’ve seen the Queen twice, and it’s fantastic for the young boys to meet her; they were quite calm and had nice talks.”
Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, McCaw and coach Steve Hansen visited the Queen and Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace as part of an intimate event.
“My grandparents were really taken aback when I first arrived at Buckingham Palace and saw the Queen. There are plenty of folks waiting outside who would want to have a peek inside so we’re fairly blessed to go do that,” McCaw remarked at the time.
Hansen had a fantastic time with the royal family, who wished the All Blacks well for the remainder of the World Cup.
“It’s always pleasant to come here; they’re a lovely family from top to bottom; they’re just normal people really when you get to meet them; obviously, they’re in the spotlight all the time, which is challenging I imagine, but when you meet them one on one, they’re lovely people.”
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>We join the world in mourning her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II and extend our thoughts and condolences to the Royal Family. Rest in Peace your majesty. <a href=”https://t.co/ufqYZXBbD7″>pic.twitter.com/ufqYZXBbD7</a></p>— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllBlacks/status/1567951753337008128?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 8, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>