Black shirts, shorts and socks - do the All Blacks wear black jockstraps, too?

Often when there’s a scrum, someone’s shorts get pulled down, so you can see not only their builder’s bum but a flash of knickers. So far, despite peering, I have spotted nothing.

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The All Blacks are the All Blacks because they play in all black. Black shirts, black shorts, black socks. But I hadn’t realised that they also wear black boots. I spent a long time checking, ticking off the boots against each player as they appeared on the telly. Most unusual these days. All footballers play in multicoloured boots, and so do the other rugby nations. It’s marketing and sponsorship, of course: money makes them wear the boots they wear. So it shows how disciplined and regimented the All Blacks must be. Do they wear black jockstraps?

Often when there’s a scrum, someone’s shorts get pulled down, so you can see not only their builder’s bum but a flash of knickers. So far, despite peering, I have spotted nothing. Most of the All Blacks don’t have builder’s bums like the normal rugby player. They are leaner, more athletic, fitter, quicker, which is one of the many reasons why it is a joy to watch them. They don’t mess around with all those stupid scrums and crawling mauls.

Perhaps they’re naked under their shorts? I remembered being amazed when I first got into the Spurs dressing room in the 1970s to discover that Steve Perryman, the captain, wore nothing under his shorts.

Was he so poor as a lad that his parents couldn’t afford underpants, or perhaps his mum didn’t know they existed? That’s roughly how I was brought up. But that was during the war, when all underclothes were being turned into bombs to drop on the Jerries.

“I’ve just never worn anything under my shorts,” Steve said. “No, I don’t worry about being injured. I only ever worry about being dropped.”

I did hope that Argentina might have made the final, for I was fascinated by their appearance, as a rugby-playing nation, getting so close to the finals. I never knew they were so good.

With the other three semi-final countries – New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – you can see the connections. They’re all ex-colonial countries, rugby being taken over there by Brit expats in the 19th century.

But Argentina ? They were never a splodge of imperial red on the map of our glorious empire. The opposite. They hated us when Alf Ramsey called them animals, then all that bother over the Malvinas.

I like to think I know about the history of football, how the Brits took it wherever they went. In 1899 local Brits in Italy began the Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club – insisting that the spelling was Milan, the English way, not Milano, as the foolish locals called it. Which is why today AC Milan is still called AC Milan.

Football was taken to South America by British sailors and railway workers. Hence the existence today of so many South American football sides with English-sounding names – Old Boys, Racing Club, Juniors, Corinthians.

It was in Argentina that the first British sports club in South America was formed, back in 1865. A separate rugby club began in 1873, British expats playing their games on the Buenos Aires Cricket Club Ground.

I spoke to an old friend, Trevor Grove, who lived in Argentina as a boy. He says that at one time Argentina had the biggest British community in the world outside the Commonwealth. Until the 1950s, rugby in Argentina was still very British, played by local men with British surnames, descendants of the original settlers.

“I myself turned out for the Old Georgians a few times, having been a pupil at St George’s. Playing on sundried grounds against men who lived on a kilo of sirloin steak a day was tough.”

A shame that the Argies didn’t make the final. But I’m looking forward to it. Apart from New Zealand’s underclothes, I will be checking out Michael Hooper of Australia, the one with the 1930s public-school hair. Is it a wig?

We rugby experts like to know these things. 

Hunter Davies’s book “The Beatles Lyrics” is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 29 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Israel: the Third Intifada?

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