Story: Rugby union

George Nēpia (1st of 5)

George Nēpia

George Nēpia, shown here kicking for touch in 1928, was the 19-year-old sensation on the All Blacks’ tour of Britain, France and Canada in 1924–25. The team came to be known as the Invincibles because they were unbeaten. As fullback, Nēpia played in the four matches in Australia before the tour, two in New Zealand, then each of the 32 tour matches. He won lavish praise for his faultless displays of kicking, tackling and fielding the ball and was named one of the five players of the year by John Wisden's rugby football almanack.

Nēpia, a member of the dominant Hawke’s Bay teams of the 1920s, completed 39 consecutive appearances for the All Blacks when he played against New South Wales in 1925. He played in two matches for the All Blacks in 1929 plus all four tests against the 1930 British Isles team. Because he was Māori, he was declared ineligible for the New Zealand tour of South Africa in 1928.

Nēpia continued to play until 1935, when he played in the trials for the team to tour Britain, then switched to league in England. He returned in 1937 and played league for New Zealand, reappearing in rugby after the Second World War. Aged 45, he became the oldest person to play first-class rugby in New Zealand when he captained the Olympians against Poverty Bay in 1950.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, S. P. Andrew Collection (PAColl-3739)
Reference: 1/1-018732-F
Photograph by Stanley Polkinghorne Andrew

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Ron Palenski, 'Rugby union - International rugby – northern hemisphere', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 November 2023)

Story by Ron Palenski, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Sep 2016