From The Vaults

27 February 2024
Snowy Svenson – the unsung try-scoring wing

It is almost 100 years since the great All Black 'Invincibles' cut a swathe through the rugby teams of the United Kingdom, Ireland and France to record 30 straight victories between September 1924 and January 1925 including the four test matches against Ireland, Wales, England and France. No matches were played in Scotland on the tour due to a regrettable dispute with the Scottish Rugby Union over the division of the gate receipts in the 1905 international between the two sides.

The Invincibles

Although the All Black touring party comprised 29 players, history has tended to give most of the plaudits to the astonishing 19-year old full back George Nepia from Hawke's Bay. He played in all 30 matches in the northern hemisphere and the other eight matches that took place before and after the tour in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The All Blacks possessed a very strong squad of forwards including the Brownlie brothers, but it is generally acknowledged that the team contained three back line all-time 'greats' in their touring party. In addition to Nepia, the Auckland second five-eighth Bert Cooke and the Wellington fly half Mark Nicholls were lynchpins of their team's success and played in all four tests. The unsung hero of the tour though was the left winger, Kenneth Sydney Svenson, known as 'Snowy', who played in 21 of the 30 matches and set a record by scoring a try in four consecutive test matches, a feat not equalled by an All Black for more than thirty years.

Although not an out-and-out speedster, Svenson's reliability and good footballing sense took him into the side for his test debut on the right wing against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on November 1st 1924. He scored the only All Black try to open the scoring in the second half which, closely followed by a penalty from Mark Nicholls, led to the 6-0 victory in a close-fought encounter.

Three weeks later at St Helen's Swansea the opponents were Wales who had downed the First All Blacks team in 1905. The All Blacks were out for revenge and this was duly achieved in a 19-0 victory with four tries including one from Svenson in the second half. He had been moved to the left wing with the return of Jack Steel, a professional sprinter and a star of the 1921 series against the Springboks, on the right wing.

Twickenham, 1925

Wales were not a strong side during the 1920s but their next international challenge saw the All Blacks up against a formidable England side captained by Wavell Wakefield at Twickenham on January 3rd 1925. This was one of the most contentious rugby union internationals in the twentieth century following the sensational sending off of the All Black forward Cyril Brownlie in the tenth minute when the match was still scoreless. England scored first with a try in the twentieth minute but a try by Svenson ten minutes later was the first of four scored by the All Blacks who led by 17-3 with twenty minutes to go. England rallied and scored a drop goal and a superb long-range try and conversion, but the gap was too great and the relieved 14-man All Black team held on to win the day by 17 points to 11.

The fourth international took place at Toulouse against France two weeks later after a match against a French Selection in Paris in which the All Blacks won 37-8 and Svenson scored two tries. For the international Steel and Svenson were on their usual wings and both players scored tries in the first half in a commanding All Black performance which produced eight tries and a victory by 30 points to 6.

There remained two matches to be played in Canada on the tourists' way home and Snowy Svenson played in the first of these matches against Vancouver thus ending his tour. He had played 25 matches including all four tests and emerged as the second highest try scorer with 23 tries. Twenty three of these matches were played on the wing with two in the centre and his value to the 'Invincibles' was summed up by Mark Nicholls after the tour:

"The perfect footballer. Really a five-eighth and not fast for a wing. 'Snowy' was the most dependable player I have ever known. He never dropped the ball, never gave a bad pass, never put a team-mate in an impossible position. An ideal player, all heart."

Svenson was to play seven more matches for the All Blacks including a test against New South Wales in September 1925 on the team's return from Canada and he scored two tries in three test matches against New South Wales in 1926. These test matches have never been awarded full test status in New Zealand but they were undoubtedly competitive and proved a fitting end to Snowy Svenson's All Black career. He retired from first-class rugby after playing for Wellington during the 1927 season but returned briefly to play three matches for Marlborough in 1932-33.


  • Centenary - 100 years of All Black Rugby - RH Chester & NAC McMillan (MOA Publications 1984)
  • A History of New Zealand Rugby Football Volume 1 1870-1945 - AC Swan (MOA Publications 1948)
  • Men in Black 1903-1988 - RH Chester & NAC McMillan (MOA Publications 1988)
  • The Triumphant Tour of the All Blacks 1924-1925 (LT Watkins Ltd, Wellington 1925)
  • Scrapbooks and match spreadsheets in World Rugby Museum and Richard Steele Collections

About The Author

A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005 and is the co-author of the RFU's 150th anniversary book England Rugby 150 Years.