BBC SPORT Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC Sport
 You are in: Rugby Union: International  
Sport Front Page
-------------------
Football
Cricket
Rugby Union
Statistics
International
European
English
Celtic
Rugby League
Tennis
Golf
Motorsport
Boxing
Athletics
Other Sports
-------------------
Special Events
-------------------
Sports Talk
-------------------
BBC Pundits
TV & Radio
Question of Sport
-------------------
Photo Galleries
Funny Old Game
-------------------
Around The UK: 
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales

BBC Sport Academy
BBC News
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS

Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Kirwan relishes role reversal
John Kirwan in action for the New Zealand All Blacks
Kirwan scored 35 tries for the All Blacks

Italy coach and former All Black winger John Kirwan talks about being part of one of the greatest ever international sides, his rivalry with David Campese and scoring an 80-yard try in the 1987 World Cup.


Some people would say John Kirwan got what he deserved.

The former All Black winger spent years tormenting lesser opponents when he was part of one of the finest international sides of all time.

Now he is coach of Italy, a team who have not won a Six Nations match for three years and are routinely hammered by the likes of England and France.

Yet it is a challenge the 37-year-old relishes.

"We've got all sorts of amazing obstacles and if other coaches were here they'd probably be amazed," he said from his base in Treviso.

"That makes my job harder and it makes me better as a coach."

The All Black side that Kirwan was such a pivotal part of tended to trample any obstacle in their path.

The vintage team of Wayne Shelford, Michael Jones, John Gallagher, Sean Fitzpatrick and Kirwan were unbeaten for 23 games from 1987 to 1990.

They won the 1987 World Cup along the way, with Kirwan finishing as the competition's top scorer, with six tries.

"The side of 1987 to 1989 was pretty complete, we ranked way up there as far as All Black sides are concerned," Kirwan said.


The side of 1987 to 1989 was pretty complete - we had steadiness, flair and a bit of mongrel
John Kirwan

"We had a fantastic mix and it was a very, very good footballing side.

"You couldn't say one player in particular stood out and that was the beauty of the side.

"We had steadiness, flair and a bit of mongrel. We also had young guys like Zinzan Brooke putting pressure on the older guys to perform.

"There was a lot of internal pressure to be the best. Our goal was to play the perfect game, no mistakes.

"It was pretty tense in every training session because you couldn't drop the ball or else you'd get totally abused by your team-mates."

Kirwan's try against Italy in the opening match of the 1987 World Cup, when he caught the ball from a kick off and sprinted 80 yards to the line, is now the stuff of legend.

"I came outside Grant Fox and a gap opened up and I managed to beat three or four players and end up 80 yards down the pitch to score," Kirwan remembers.

But he prefers an effort for his club side Auckland against Queensland the same year.

Australian winger David Campese
Kirwan had some memorable battles with Campese

"I scored from 70 yards, but it was more enjoyable because I ended up beating Michael Lynagh and Brendan Moon and a few other pretty good players," he said.

Kirwan had some memorable battles with many opposing wingers over the years, including England's Rory Underwood.

But there is one opponent he will always be remembered alongside - Australia's David Campese.

"I had some great battles with Campo. I really respected him and studied him carefully," Kirwan said.

"When I played Campo I went the physical way, because I knew he was faster and more fleet-footed than me."

Kirwan says the 1991 World Cup semi-final, which Australia won before going on to claim the title, encapsulated his rivalry with Campese.

"That was the worst 40 minutes and best 40 minutes of my life all in one game," Kirwan said.

"In the first half I really got dominated and in the second I did everything I could to help the team win, but it wasn't quite enough."


Rugby heroes
Links to more International stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more International stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

Sport Front Page | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League |
Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Other Sports |
Special Events | Sports Talk | BBC Pundits | TV & Radio | Question of Sport |
Photo Galleries | Funny Old Game | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales