Part of Linwood’s long legacy of providing front-row forwards to New Zealand line-ups, John Greengrass played 18 Tests as a prop or second-rower for the Kiwis between 1970 and ’75.
Greymouth-born Greengrass earned his first-grade spurs for Linwood in 1969. A Canterbury debut and later a call-up to the Kiwis’ World Cup squad ensured the following season. The 23-year-old made his debut in the England-hosted tournament as a replacement in the loss to Australia, before starting at prop in the win over France and the defeat to Great Britain.
An outstanding defender, Greengrass toured Britain and France with the 1971 Kiwis and played all three Tests of the historic series win over Great Britain – scoring a try in the dead-rubber third-Test loss – and the opening clash with France.
He was in the second-row for both Tests during New Zealand’s 1972 tour of Australia but was unavailable for the World Cup in France that year.
Greengrass return to the black-and-white jersey in 1974 to play in all three Tests against the Lions and featured in six of the Kiwis’ eight World Championship series matches at home and abroad in 1975.
The hulking forward scored a try in the dying moments of his final match for his country – the 25-24 loss to Wales at Swansea – which was unfortunately overshadowed by Welsh hardman Jim Mills stomping on Greengrass’ head just after dotting down. Greengrass received 15 stitches in a gaping head wound, while Mills was sent off, suspended for six months and banned for life from playing in New Zealand.
Greengrass joined Kaiapoi in 1976 and played the last of his 38 games for Canterbury in 1977.
Meanwhile, Greengrass and Mills buried the hatchet when they met up in early-2009 – 33 years after their infamous incident.
NEW ZEALAND (1970-72, 1974-75)
18 Tests – 2 tries (6 points)
17 tour matches – 4 tries (12 points)
-1970 Kiwis World Cup tour
-1971 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1972 Kiwis tour of Australia
-1975 Kiwis World Championship Series squad