Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks - 1st XV: No 7 Ian Kirkpatrick

Regular bike rides, plenty of outdoor work and a great constitution have Ian Kirkpatrick in much the same nick he was as an outstanding All Black flanker.

A large part of his life still involves rugby but he loves suiting up for rides or walking trips with old comrades like Hamish Macdonald, Grant Batty and Peter Whiting.

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When Kirkie watches rugby, games are never recorded, "it doesn't matter what time a game is, if you want to watch rugby it has to be live," he says.

The buzz has never left him nor has the anguish he still feels as the captain, about the infamous exit of Keith Murdoch from the 1972-3 tour of Britain and France. It was a tough time for Murdoch and the "darkest time" in Kirkpatrick's career.

"He should never have gone home and he wasn't going home and the manager went against that. I will probably never shake it off. Every time Keith Murdoch's name is mentioned I shudder."

That young All Black side struggled to get back into their stride too as the UK media took their vitriolic chance to lay into the tourists.

A few years later there was personal torment for Kirkpatrick when he was sacked as captain in the most public of team announcement arenas at Athletic Park.

He was also left to wonder about the NZRU in 1976 when they declined an offer from Danie Craven to have neutral referees for the test series in South Africa.

"How crazy was that. Maybe if they got a referee in from somewhere they would have got at him anyway, paid him off somehow and it would not have been any better," he said.

Kirkpatrick was only 21 when Fred Allen picked him for his first All Black tour to Europe in 1967 and when Kel Tremain was injured, Kirkpatrick made his test debut against France.

A year later he became the first official substitute in a test after Brian Lochore broke his thumb against the Wallabies and then tore a hamstring.

Kirkpatrick had broken his thumb earlier on that tour but after eight days rather than three weeks in plaster and some boisterous treatment, he was cleared to return to play.

He warmed up for the test running down the stairs at the Sydney Football Stadium from the reserve seats and scored three tries.

None were as spectacular as his 55m burst out of a maul to the try line against the 1971 Lions.

"Pinetree always said he had a part to play in that because he gave me the ball. I was lucky to get it because he never used to pass to anyone.

"It's funny you break out and you set off. They came at me and I was able to push them off until I hit the corner. That does not happen very often."

If the Lions could not nail Kirkpatrick, his farm horse did and although the flanker popped a rib cartilage, he was persuaded against his better judgment to play with an injection in the next test.

When his playing days were done, Kirkpatrick continued to foster his love for the national game and thrived as a mentor with the Hurricanes for six seasons.

Statistics
Date of birth: 24 May 1946
Position: Blindside flanker
Matches: 113
Tests: 39
Test debut: 25 November 1967 v France, Paris
Last test: 13 August 1977 v British & Irish Lions, Auckland
Provinces: Canterbury, Poverty Bay
Test tries: 16
Test points: 57

- NZ Herald

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