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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Captain Kirk recalls victory
David Kirk lifts the World Cup back in 1987
Kirk gave a 'calm and focused' team tealk before the final
New Zealand went into the inaugural World Cup as overwhelming favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

They coasted throughout the tournament, climaxing in a commanding 29-9 victory over France.

Few images are more memorable from 1987 than when All Black captain David Kirk raised the trophy and here he recalls the glory trail.

When you went into the World Cup, you were only named captain when Andrew Dalton pulled out with injury. Did that suddenly put pressure on you?

Being handed the captaincy after Andrew's injury did not really affect the pressure. We were well prepared going into the Italy game and there was no question of us losing that game. It was just the same pressure of playing any game.

But there was just general pressure as we were carrying the hopes and expectations of 3.5m people. It was a relief to get out and play but also a great fulfilment of expectation. We were hungry and grateful it had come around.

You were a little rusty as a team at the start of the Italy game. What finally made it click?

A lot of people suggest we did not really gel in the first half but I don't remember it like that. I thought we played pretty well from the beginning.

We retained a lot of possession but may not have been that accurate or been able to get the ball across the line as much as we would have liked.

Many say it was not until John Kirwan's wonder try that we came to life. But we were always in command.

You cruised through the opening games. When did you finally start to feel you were meeting your match?

Well, there was Argentina who had drawn a Test with us back in 1985. They were a strong team and had good players in people like Hugo Porta.

We used the game to mix up our team - it was the first time Zinzan Brooke had ever played for us for example. But, although the Pumas were tough, Scotland at Lancaster Gate in the quarter-finals was the first real pressure contest.

We really felt the pressure as they had played well to draw with France and only came second in the pool on points. They were the second best team in Europe.

The thought of losing in the quarter-finals was too much to bear. But it wasn't an easy game and only our late tries moved us away from them.

How about the semi-final? It all seemed too easy for you.

We felt pretty good going into the Wales game. Scotland was crisis point and we came through that and won pretty well in the end.

The team was feeling pretty good and the combinations had settled down. The England-Wales quarter-final was dreadful. Two teams couldn't have tried more to lose it.

And when we played Wales, we hit our stride very early and the Welsh pack crumbled. The only problem was if we lost concentration which we did a little at end of the first half. But then we came back in the second and started to move away again.

Would it be fair to say you saved the best for the final?

Certainly. France were a much tougher side - they had very strong forwards and their backs read like a who's who of legends of French rugby - Philippe Sella, Serge Blanco and Pierre Berbizier.

We had lost a Test to them the year before and they had won the last two Five Nations. What evolved in the game was not our prettiest rugby but it was our best. France asked a lot of us.

Were you happy that France had beaten Australia and that you didn't have to face the Wallabies in the final?

Deep down I had no doubt we'd beat either. Having seen France play Australia in that epic semi-final, we felt they had left something on the field.

We felt Australia would have seen the semi as a step to the final but there was always a feeling that France had pulled it out of the fire and had almost done enough to establish their quality.

What are your recollections of the day from start to finish?

I remember it vividly. I remember waking up. Nothing was different in the sense of the team routine. But everything was different in terms of significance of the day.

New Zealand perform the haka at the inaugural World Cup
The haka opened the World Cup

There were more people around the hotel, there was more buzz and there was less privacy. Getting on the bus was the first thing as there were helicopters overhead and a police escort. It was a lot more.

There was a real feeling of expectation at the ground but it was great playing at home as there was a changing room I was used to. It helped establish a sense of routine.

But then it dawned that if we wanted to be world champions, this was the one and only chance.

In the team talk I didn't get too emotional. I just focused on what we all had to do. In a sense, it was pretty calm and focused.

The game sped by and the French were pretty physical. But once I scored I had a gut feeling and knew we'd be champions.

When the whistle went, there was no massive relief moment as we knew we were going to win. I just remember making a dash off the field - in the days when spectators could still run on.

And how did it feel to lift the World Cup?

I remember walking up the stairs thinking how odd it was that it was completely private as I went up. We were closed off so no-one could see me.

I knew there would be a big cheer when we came in, but I hadn't really thought what I'd do with the trophy. I knew with the exuberance, I would lift it up high.

But I never thought about kissing it before the moment or grabbing Andy Dalton. It seemed the right thing to do as he had continued to make a contribution off the field.

He was quite shy about it and didn't think he ought to be there. But I thought "this guy should be involved".

Actually lifting it was neither a real buzz or an anti-climax. There was a touch of melancholy. It must be how people feel at the top of Everest. They only have 20 minutes there and won't ever be back. The only way back is down.

But that melancholy was overwhelmed by joy. It was all pretty amazing.

Interview by Matt Majendie

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