Winning your first cap is a great day for any player, and to have it against the All Blacks must provide an extra dimension. To both end up on the winning side and make a scoring contribution makes it truly hard to beat.
Nine of the 59 Englishmen who have made this most daunting of international bows wound up as winners. Four of the winners scored -- wingers Alex Obolensky and Hal Sever in 1936, replacement outside-half Freddie Burns in 2012 and full-back Jon Callard, who had his day of days 25 years ago this month at Twickenham on Nov. 27, 1993.
If Obolensky's exotic background and two tries in 1936 make his outing still perhaps the definitive unforgettable debut, Callard is not so very far behind. His 12 points from four penalties in England's 15-9 win still ranks joint second among 908 men from all countries who have made their debuts against New Zealand, trailing only goal-kicking Jewish Springbok prop Okey Geffin's 15 at Cape Town in 1949.
Callard had had to wait until he was 27 to start the full test career which might have happened in a different jersey: "I grew up and went to school in Wales, and my father was from Resolven near Neath. I played for Wales at under-15,16,18,19 and 21 levels with team-mates like Robert Jones and was called into the full squad at the same time as Mike Rayer and Tony Clement."
Those names, along with a shift to Bath from Newport -- where older brother Nigel, a scrum-half, is ranked a club legend -- may explain why the Welsh cap never happened. Qualified for England by birth in Leicester, in 1991 he was told "to wait by the phone because Simon Hodgkinson was injured on the tour of Argentina. I waited, but the call never came."
He had to compete with England incumbent Jon Webb for his place in the hugely dominant Bath team when the medic moved from Bristol, but was clearly a serious runner once Webb retired after the 1993 Five Nations.
And he was given every chance to make his case, playing against the All Blacks for both South and South-West and England A: "The South and South-West match at Redruth didn't go well. We lost and Geoff Cooke said 'we'd better have another look at you for England A'. We lost again, I missed four kicks and threw an interception which Jeff Wilson ran in from 40 metres. A spectator collecting autographs outside the ground said 'I know who you are, you're effing useless'. Geoff said it hadn't been the best display but added 'see you next week'. That was no guarantee, but I went from despair to hope in seconds."
England had alternatives. Three of that A team's threequarters -- Paul Hull, Mike Catt and Ian Hunter -- would win caps at full-back while David Pears and Alan Buzza had gone on the previous summer's non-cap tour of Canada. Callard adds: "there were also very good players like Simon Langford at Orrell and John Liley at Leicester."
But Callard and scrum-half Kyran Bracken were the debutants in the team to play an All-Black side who had underlined their status as hot favourites with a 51-15 thumping of Scotland, Wilson scoring a debut hat-trick.
The first of Callard's four penalties in the 16th minute gave England momentum which they never lost in a tryless contest. The last in the 70th minute sealed the final 15-9 advantage. Rob Andrew's drop-goal completed the scoring for a team which Daily Telegraph reporter John Mason reckoned "won on four counts: self-belief, ruthless first-time tackles, ball retention and game-line protection."
It was England's fourth victory over the All Blacks, maintaining the tradition. not broken until 2002, that they only happened with a '3' in the year, following 1936, 1973, and 1983.
Callard recalls that before his first kick South African referee Freek Burger said he was 'going for the poles', a usage he had not heard before, but has used since both as a player and coach. His memories of the actual kicks are less clear, because of the technique of 'dislocation' he used to clear his mind before kicking: "I couldn't have told you what the score was, or anything like that".
Ability to handle pressure was also aided by past experience: "I'd been through things like missing several kicks in a low-scoring match which Newport lost to Fiji when I was 18. It was a big match for the club and I felt dreadful, but it was an important experience."
Even so, there was one point where the occasion possibly inhibited him.
"Rory Underwood broke away. Playing for Bath I always followed those breaks. If I had, I could have been in a position to take an inside pass, and perhaps score, when he was caught. I don't know why I didn't, and it was the one real disappointment."
A post-match dinner at which the teams shared tables and he sat with Inga Tuigamala remains a fond memory, as does the reaction of the All Blacks: "We were delirious with delight, but they couldn't have been more gracious."
Next up was a five Nations debut in which he scored all England's points, including the last-minute penalty which famously reduced Gavin Hastings to tears, in a 15-14 win at Murrayfield. But he hit the post against Ireland at Twickenham, England lost 14-12 and he was out in spite of scoring 39 of England's 42 points, all from penalties, in three matches.
He found himself in what he calls the 'deselection zone': "Unless you make it to about 10 caps, if you get dropped you have to prove yourself all over again to get back in again". England were also clearly uncertain exactly what they wanted at full-back, since the next three matches saw Pears, Hunter and Hull appear in turn.
Callard went on that summer's tour of South Africa and -- to his lasting pride -- the World Cup there in the following year. Picked against Samoa, he told reporter Dave Barton that he was 'looking forward to taking a conversion'. He kicked three, and 21 points in all, in the 44-22 victory at Durban, but it was back to penalties only, three, in his last test, a defeat by South Africa at Twickenham that autumn, for an impressive final tally of 69 points in five matches.
That he also spent 24 afternoons bench-warming in an era when replacement appearances were rare is the sort of experience that makes some old players derisive of modern cap tallies, but not Callard: "Every one of those caps is worked for and earned."
That view comes with the insight and empathy of an insider whose coaching experience includes spells with Bath, Leeds and in the RFU's academy set-up. A freelance consultant today he works for three days a week with Sale, and has contracts with Warrington Wolves -- a reminder that he was one of a minority of Bath players to emerge with credit from the cross-code challenge against Wigan.
In 1996, he earned an invitation to change codes from fellow full-back Clive Griffiths at the short-lived South Wales club and the Football Association: "In all of them it's a mix of my specialism in kicking and building career pathways", he says. Add in that trophy-strewn decade with Bath, peaking in another points-monopolising effort in the Heineken victory over Brive in 1998, and there's plenty to envy in his own pathway, but nothing perhaps to match that true collector's item of a match-winning 12-point debut against the All Blacks.