Linwood and Canterbury stalwart Lory Blanchard’s association with the Kiwis as a player and coach spanned 21 years and 35 Test matches. The hooker/prop was a regular member of New Zealand’s pack during their highly successful early-1950s period, while he coached the national team in their watershed 1971 season.
Born in Roxburgh, Blanchard was a Canterbury rugby union rep before debuting for the Canterbury rugby league team and for South Island against Australia in 1949, his first season after switching codes.
Blanchard helped Linwood to a championship in 1951 and was named in the Kiwis’ squad to tour Britain and France at the end of the year. He played the first of 63 matches for New Zealand against Halifax, while his 24 appearances on tour included a Test debut at hooker against France in Bordeaux and a run against British Empire at Stamford Bridge.
The 27-year-old toured Australia the following season, playing prop in all three Tests of New Zealand’s stunning series win. A broken collarbone ruled him out of the home series against the green-and-golds in 1953.
Blanchard returned to the Test arena at hooker for two matches of the 1954 series against the touring Great Britain Lions, then played all three matches of the Kiwis’ inaugural World Cup campaign in France.
After featuring in both Tests against the French tourists in 1955, the veteran was chosen for his second tour of Britain and France. An injury ruled him out for an 11-game stretch but he was back in time for the third Test against Great Britain, scoring a try from prop in a 28-13 victory at Headingley. Blanchard reclaimed the hooker spot from Jock Butterfield for the three Tests in France, which marked the end of his Kiwis career.
A player-coach while at Linwood, Blanchard had his first stint as Kiwis coach in 1966-67, overseeing a 2-0 home series loss to Great Britain and a 3-0 series loss in Australia. He returned to the role as New Zealand hosted Australia in 1969, with the Test series finishing 1-all.
Morrie Church was in charge for New Zealand’s series against the touring Lions in 1970, but Blanchard coaching the Kiwis during their World Cup campaign – with losses to Australia and Great Britain bookending a win over France – later that year.
The highlight of Blanchard’s coaching tenure was undoubtedly the extraordinary 1971 season, which featured a stunning 24-3 win over Australia at Carlaw Park and series wins over Great Britain (2-1) and France (2-0) on a phenomenally successful Northern Hemisphere tour. His then-record tally of 19 Tests as New Zealand coach concluded with two convincing losses in Australia in 1972.
Blanchard became just the second Cantabrian inducted to the NZRL’s Legends of League in 2000 and was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to rugby league in 2002. Awarded life membership of the New Zealand Rugby League in 2008, Blanchard passed away on New Year’s Day 2013, aged 88.
NEW ZEALAND (PLAYER – 1951-52, 1954-56)
16 Tests – 1 try (3 points)
47 tour matches – 3 tries (9 points)
-1951-52 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1952 Kiwis tour of Australia
-1954 Kiwis World Cup squad
-1955-56 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
NEW ZEALAND (COACH – 1966-67, 1969-72)
19 Tests (7 wins, 11 losses, 1 draw)
-1967 Kiwis tour of Australia
-1970 World Cup
-1971 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1972 Kiwis tour of Australia