by Richard Knowler
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Former All Blacks hooker Dennis Young, a talented tap dancer in his youth, later used his lightning-fast feet to bamboozle opponents in scrums around the world.
Young died in Christchurch on Sunday aged 90. He played 22 tests and 39 games for the All Blacks between 1956 and 1964.
Although not large in stature, Young was a combative unit on the rugby field; this was evident in the scrums during an era when hookers had to possess sharp reactions to win the feed or risk being embarrassed.
Unlike today, where hookers rarely lose their own ball in scrums, the men in the middle of the two front rows often duelled with their feet to win possession.
Young, who won Canterbury age-group awards for his tap dancing ability, was quick to put those skills to work and win valuable tightheads for the All Blacks, Canterbury and the Christchurch Tech OB club.
Although he only stood 1.73m and weighed 87kg – the hookers of today weigh around 110kg – Young enjoyed the physicality of the sport; he was determined, athletic and tough.
Sons Mark and Bryce described their father as being “built like a bulldog’’ and his tenacious spirit was evident to everyone who watched him rip into his work in the tight exchanges during rugby matches.
Young, who was born in Christchurch and was raised by his mother Gladys after his father Dennis was killed in World War Two, represented Canterbury 139 times.
Dennis Young was a woodwork teacher at the original Shirley Boys High in Christchurch and actually taught me in 1958.
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