New Zealand Rugby League coach, Graham Lowe led his team from a formal, post-Test match function in Perpignan, France, in protest at the way the Kiwis had been treated by their hosts.
Lowe had made it clear his squad had to leave early that evening, to make their connections, ahead of a flight back to England.
But French officials kept the tourists waiting in the function room for an hour and a half.
“We’d been at a mayoral reception across the road, and went to the function room waiting for the dinner to start,” Lowe said in his book, ‘Lowe and Behold’, written by former Auckland Star journalist, Richard Becht.
“Not one of the French officials had the courtesy to ask whether we had been looked after. In the end I told (managers) Jim Campbell and Tom McKeown, that we couldn’t wait around much longer, that we had to stick up for ourselves and not keep the team waiting.
“We decided we would give the French officials another five minutes to start the reception, and if they hadn’t, we were leaving.
“They didn’t show, so I told the players the ignorant French bastards could stick their meal. It’s typical of the way you’re treated over there. I know people say that’s how the French are, but you can’t let that come into it. We wouldn’t treat anyone like that in New Zealand.”
The Kiwis also had to learn to live with the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ controversy while in France, with Lowe bearing the brunt of the media assault. (In July that year, French agents had sunk Greenpeace International’s ‘Rainbow Warrior’, in Auckland Harbor).
“You always sensed people were making life difficult for us over there, and I could only assume it was because of the Rainbow Warrior business,” Lowe said. “We had a hotel manager in Marseilles smiling and waving at us, but then he phoned ahead to tell our next hotel, not to take us, because we had damaged his place.”
The 1985 Kiwi side was the first to go through France undefeated, winning both Tests and the five provincial games.
Brent Todd, James Goulding and Shane Cooper made their Test debuts in France.
France were coached by Australian, Tas Baiteri.
The Kiwis drew the series in England, winning the First Test at Headingley. Leeds; losing the second at Central Park, Wigan and then drawing the Third Test 6-6 at Elland Road, Leeds.
1 Kiwis on tour, 1985. Coach, Graham Lowe (centre) with players (from left) Gary Kemble, Fred Ah Kuoi, Kevin Tamati, Dane O’Hara, James Leuluai and Gary Prohm.
2 Adrian Shelford in action for the Kiwis in France in 1985
3 Graham Lowe leads the Kiwis out at Headingley, in 1985 followed by captain, Mark Graham and James Leuluai.