Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

1987: The backroom deals to launch World Cup

Sparse turnout: Scouts carry a banner during the 1987 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony at Eden Park.
Photo / Getty Images
Sparse turnout: Scouts carry a banner during the 1987 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

It was the year of the first Lotto draw and the first heart transplant in New Zealand.

Herbs won the award for best New Zealand album of the year with Sensitive to a Smile while the nation was stunned by the murder of Napier schoolgirl Teresa Cormack.

Silver Ferns netballer Maria Tutaia was born, so too Hayley Westenra, and the Rugby World Cup made its first appearance.

The official march-past was underwhelming. It was a showery Friday afternoon and pictures of the first global tournament show sparsely populated grandstands at Eden Park as former All Black flanker Waka Nathan led the march, which capped a relay run by 15 former test players from the airport to the ground.

The Auckland union had been asked to take over running the promotion just three weeks before kickoff, and executive director Lew Pryme and choreographer Lynette Perry pulled the ceremony together.

The 108 ounces of gold-plated silver on the Webb Ellis Cup was introduced during an hour-long preamble and the players milled around for a while before referee Bob Fordham eventually whistled time on in the tournament.

Two years earlier, the event was given the green light by the International Rugby Board, although Ireland and Scotland were dissenting voices. Japanese communications firm KDD bailed out tournament organisers with a $3 million sponsorship, a figure which matched the IRB's eventual tournament profit.

A week before kickoff, there were serious doubts Fiji would be able to take their place in the 16-team competition as the islands suffered another coup. Eventually they made it and Samoa stayed as first reserve.

About 600,000 spectators went to the matches and 300 million watched the television coverage in 17 countries.

What do we remember of it? For some it was the image of Buck Shelford staying on the field after knocking out Welsh lock Huw Richards. Referee Kerry Fitzgerald waited until Richards came to, then ordered to launch World CupSPARSE TURNOUT: Scouts carry a banner during the 1987 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony at Eden Park. Picture / Getty Images

The All Black side displayed a great brand of mobile rugby to win the final 29-9 against France.him off for starting the trouble and warned Shelford about his retaliation.

For others it was All Black skipper David Kirk scoring in the final and then sharing the trophy with the side's original but injured skipper, Andy Dalton.

An unco-operative hamstring thwarted Dalton's involvement after he had been the subject of a pre-tournament inquiry about endorsing farming products in a television commercial.

It might have been the sight of Fijian fullback Severo Korondudua striding for the line and then losing the ball when it slipped like a pip from his grasp. It might have been Michael Jones scoring the first try of the tournament or John Kirwan's majestic length-of-the-field touchdown in the same game.

The All Blacks' eventual triumph came after political fallout from the rebel Cavaliers' trip to South Africa the year before.

South Africa became the only IRB member not invited because they would not have gained visas to New Zealand or Australia and even if they had, their involvement would have caused great angst and problems.

The All Black coaching panel was altered. Alex Wyllie and John Hart were brought in to assist Brian Lochore, and they uncovered a squad who could play in a style based on skill and intensity. Possible captain Jock Hobbs fell by the wayside because of concussion and then Dalton succumbed to injury.

Those dramas quickly evaporated as a superbly conditioned All Black side displayed a great brand of mobile rugby to surge through the tournament and win the final 29-9 against France at Eden Park.

It was all over inside four weeks. The All Blacks played only one more official test that year - against the Wallabies in Sydney a month later.

Australia and their voluble coach Alan Jones had been expected to feature strongly in the World Cup. They bombed but were expected to give the All Blacks equal opposition in Sydney to anything they had encountered in the World Cup.

The All Blacks triumphed 30-16 and brought home the Bledisloe Cup to complete a superb unbeaten season.

With or Without You by U2 is at No1 as the first World Cup kicks off, but Bon Jovi's hair-rock classic Livin' on a Prayer is the biggest hit of the year.

1987 in the news

February 22
Andy Warhol dies following complications from gallbladder surgery.

June
Prime Minister David Lange cuts a political deal with France for $13 million in compensation and an apology for the Rainbow Warrior bombing. In return, the two French agents arrested for the attack would be detained at the French military base on Hao atoll for three years. However, the two agents had both returned to France by May 1988 after less than two years on the atoll.

May 17
Iraqi missiles kill 37 in an attack on the American frigate USS Stark in the Persian Gulf. Iraq's president Saddam Hussein apologises the next day.

June 11
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wins a rare third term in Britain.

1987
Video: Great World Cup moments - 1987
In the beginning: Remembering our last victory drink
How we won: The All Blacks - Getting the nation back into black
Setting the scene: Long road to global rugby supremacy
A sending off that made Wallaby history
All Black memories: 'Dawn of a new era'
Tournament star: Michael Jones - Keeping up with Jones
Tournament action: Fans' lukewarm start fast turned to fervour

- NZ Herald

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