Book celebrates Welsh-All Black connection
NEW Zealand have not lost to Wales since 1953, but a Whitland author claims a special relationship, based on respect and affinity, still exists between the two countries.
From a very young age Roger Penn was fascinated by the All Blacks.
His new book, Three Feathers and a Silver Fern looks back at more than a century of contests and camaraderie between the two great rugby nations.
He came up with the idea for the book following a casual conversation with the then head of publishing at Gwasg Gomer.
In 2012, he fulfilled a long-held ambition to travel to New Zealand where he spent five weeks meeting All Blacks, past and present, and studying New Zealand's rugby history.
One of the things Mr Penn hopes to achieve through the book is to get more people to visit the country.
He said: "I hope the book is a push for some people to go. It's a lot of travelling but it's worth it." Mr Penn was at Stradey Park when the Scarlets famously beat New Zealand 9-3 in 1972.
He was also there when Gareth Edwards scored that unforgettable try for the Barbarians at the Arms Park.
But he is not old enough to remember a Welsh national side triumphing over the men in black.
And yet according to Mr Penn there has always been a sense of respect towards Wales dating back to their first meeting in 1905.
He said: "The first meeting was in 1905 and the All Blacks had been on a six-week boat trip to get to Britain and they swept everyone aside."
When they arrived in Cardiff and performed the hakka the home crowd responded with Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau — the first time the Welsh national anthem had ever been sung before a sporting event.
Wales won the game 3-0, one of only three victories ever recorded by the Welsh against the Kiwis.
The relationship between the two countries has not always been rosy. The 1970s saw matches turn nasty on several occasions and encounters were marred by foul-play.
Despite the odd fiery moment and despite a few thrashings down the years, the New Zealanders have always held a high opinion of the Welsh on and off the field.
Although the book is based on a rugby rivalry much of the focus is on the cultural and social background of the relationship.
The book will be launched at Whitland Rugby Club on November 15, and is available from at retailers and online.