Feature Christmas 2010: History

The first 15: New Zealand doctors and rugby

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5127 (Published 15 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5127
  1. Sanket Srinivasa, research fellow, surgical registrar,
  2. Yu-Mwee Tan, medical student,
  3. Andrew Connolly, consultant surgeon,
  4. Andrew G Hill, associate professor of surgery, consultant surgeon
  1. 1Department of Surgery, South Auckland Clinical School, Middlemore Hospital, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. sanketsri{at}gmail.com


New Zealanders are passionate about rugby and no professional group is an exception. The medical community in New Zealand has a proud tradition of many individuals playing international rugby and then going on to succeed in their medical career. In anticipation of the impending rugby World Cup, and as a point of historical interest, we conducted a search of medically qualified New Zealanders who played rugby at university, provincial or national level to identify a first 15 as well as reserve players.


No database recording players’ occupations is currently maintained, so a systematic search was not possible. We undertook the search with the help of the New Zealand Rugby Museum, the New Zealand Rugby Almanak, representatives from all the provincial rugby unions, and conversations with the knowledgeable individuals acknowledged below.

The criteria for selection required that a player must be a medically qualified professional and eligible to play for the New Zealand national team, the All Blacks. Once identified as eligible, players were selected for the team on the basis of their playing abilities and not for their off-field exploits. All Blacks were given preference for each position if more than one candidate was eligible.


We identified over 150 potential candidates, the majority of whom had represented their university. Twenty eligible candidates had played for either the All Blacks or the New Zealand Maori team (see box). The first 15 are listed here.

New Zealand rugby representatives (All Black number)

  • 1 Donald MacPherson (136)

  • 2 Francis Ward (247)

  • 3 William Fea (248)

  • 4 Robert Sinclair (270)

  • 5 Arnold Perry (273)

  • 6 David Dickson (315)

  • 7 Donald Stevenson (326)

  • 8 Ron Elvidge (454)

  • 9 Graham Moore (506)

  • 10 Desmond Oliver (557)

  • 11 Mark Irwin (564)

  • 12 James Watt (584)

  • 13 Hugh Burry (607)

  • 14 Tony Davies (608)

  • 15 Lawrie Knight (730)

  • 16 David Kirk (843)

  • 17 Jeremy …

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