Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
10 June 2015
A visit to the Carmarthen Athletic Club in west Wales is well worthwhile. I did it in 2015. The collection of jerseys and memorabilia is famous throughout the rugby world. The club's unique boot collection was started by the President Gwynne King Morgan back in the 1960s. He approached members of the 1967 All Blacks who, because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease were not allowed to take their boots home. Mr King swooped - and Colin Meads's pair - with an autographed card still attached - proudly still sits there.
There are hundreds of other pairs there too all with signed good wishes from famous players of all countries to the Carmarthen Club. The glass-walls also present an excellent collection of memorabilia from other sports too. Its a great place to stop in as I did and enjoy typical Welsh rugby hospitality.
The grand old Wellington ground had to go but NZ said goodbye in great style beating France 54-7.
Queensland and Australia
86 internationals for Australia 1991-2001
One of Australian rugby’s most recognizable and powerful rugby personalities, the modest, lanky Queenslander John Eales had a career at the top which spanned more than a decade and included playing in three World Cups. That in itself is a superb achievement but when the winning of the World Cup twice, as well as being captain once, are added in, his world status is further elevated.
John Eales was a 21 year old in just his second season of senior football when he played his first test on his home ground of Ballymore in Brisbane, against Wales in July of 1991. The Wallabies won 63-6 and followed that with a 40-15 win six days later in the second test in Sydney. A fortnight later and young Eales had outjumped the fast-rising New Zealand lock forward Ian Jones as Australia stormed to a 21-12.
The speed of his rise continued. By November that year he had played a World Cup final and after only being an international player for just a week over three months he had shared in the 12-6 win over England at Twickenham.
In many respects his career never looked back from that heady start. His play, as a tall leaping lock forward was always strong and authoritative, his goal-kicking from the lock forward position was often a real bonus to his Queensland and Australian teams. One time, early in his career, in a Brisbane club game, he let fly with a dropped goal attempt from half way. The ball flew high and true between the posts. The modest Eales dismissed the kick as if it were nothing. When he took over the captaincy of his country he was almost as laconic in accepting the honour. Not that Eales wasn’t proud, he was quietly delighted. He took to leadership as if to the manner born. It brought out in himself an ability to also bring quiet influence, confidence and respect from his teammates. A number of seasoned Australian writers rate him among their very best captains of all time. Those same writers say he is the best forward that country has ever produced.
Certainly as a player Eales was a true utility, playing in more than one position in the forward pack, (lock and number eight forward) yet he was also a multi-skilled performer around the field. He had such talent that somewhere on one of his journeys one of his mates called him ‘Nobody’ but it was not a reference to his quiet and shy manner. The name was a shortened version of ‘nobody’s perfect.’ The name was a backhanded compliment to his rare gifts.
John Eales played everywhere in the rugby world and, as already listed, had probably more success than any other player. By the time he reached the 1999 Rugby World Cup he was one of the most familiar faces of the world game. But retirement was looming. He had only reached the final’s series after a long and careful buildup recovering from a shoulder injury. But he played the World Cup with more than his usual authority and vigour; at one point it the final against Wales in Cardiff he demanded of the referee; Andre Watson of South Africa, that he should look closely at the tactics of the French players; ‘if you do not look at their foul play I will take my team off the field.’ Coming from Eales it was absolute that something was going on.
When the Wallabies won by the resounding margin of 35-12 John Eales took the Cup from Queens Elizabeth II and held it high. Though he played on for one more season that was the summit of his superb career.
His total of 86 test matches was then a Wallaby record for a forward; only the winger David Campese had played more. (Only Tim Horan and Jason Little were also in two World Cup winning teams; but does Eales being captain in one final just lift him a little higher?)
When did an international rugby team play a full game and then travel to another country to play a second full game on the same day?