It was quite a sight - Alex Wyllie and John Hart playing doubles tennis together before the All Blacks 1991 World Cup quarter-final in Lille, two men whose common bond started and ended with a passionate interest in rugby.

Here they were, though, the terse man of the land and micro-discussion and the garrulous city businessman clad in sponsors' training gear and matching headbands, paired to duke it out against some of the other squad members. Two men who were polar opposites in personality and style posed for high-fives for the cameras they gritted their way through this public embrace.

Their union came in a year when the Bring Back Buck campaign bubbled away strongly, there was NZR pressure on Wyllie to choose either Hart or Lane Penn as his assistant coach and the All Blacks were well beaten 21-12 in Sydney.

Iconic World Cup images: 1987


In the lead-up to the return Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park, NZR boss Eddie Tonks called an urgent meeting of some councillors, Wyllie and manager John Sturgeon in Wellington.
He was alarmed by what he'd seen in Sydney, players' feedback and the potential damage another loss could do to the World Cup campaign.

After some wrangling, they decreed Hart would assist as co-coach for the next test, although that was never announced to the team or public.

As the All Blacks later prepared for their World Cup departure, an emergency NZR meeting decided Hart would stay as co-coach with Wyllie and Penn would be their assistant.

"Against my better judgement but believing it was time for all hands to the pump, I answered their call," Hart said. "I had reservations about the arrangement as I'm sure did Alex but I was determined to take a positive approach."

The conflicts escalated when the Auckland players in the squad gravitated towards Hart, Wyllie's supporters tucked in with him and the rest were left in limbo.