Today NZME launches 'A Captain's Cup' - an exclusive eight-part Radio Sport podcast series every Friday in which Louis Herman-Watt and Daniel McHardy interview every Rugby World Cup-winning captain. In episode 1, David Kirk explains the All Blacks' dominance in the 1987 tournament was in large part thanks to the approach from three people.

A Captain's Cup episode 1: David Kirk

Kirk captained the 1987 side to World Cup glory, finishing second on the try-scoring ladder with five, behind teammates Craig Green and John Kirwan, who scored six each.

"I think it was the best triumvirate that we've had in New Zealand rugby," Kirk recalled.
"When we had that triumvirate of Brian Lochore, Alex Wylie and John Hart, clearly the three best minds and most knowledgeable and proven coaches in New Zealand at the time, we had the best people on the job.

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"It was great that we had BJ [Lochore], who had all the mana of having been a successful All Black captain for a long period of time, to lead that group, because he had that powerful leadership position immediately conferred on him, but he had two extremely thoughtful, engaged and leading – active and innovation – supporters in Alex and John.

"The three of them worked really well together during that period. I think they had arguments, and I think they had differences of opinion, and I think BJ had served referee from time to time but he was big enough to make the call and say what he thought was right and that was it."

David Kirk heads for the try line in the 1987 Rugby World Cup final against France. Photo / John Stone
David Kirk heads for the try line in the 1987 Rugby World Cup final against France. Photo / John Stone

Heading into the 1987 tournament, the All Blacks put a lot of focus on using their forwards as attacking weapons. So while the midfielders created space for the outside backs to exploit, the forwards would be backing up to take a pass and score the try.

Throughout the competition, the All Blacks scored 43 tries while conceding just four. They also outscored their opponents 298 to 52. Kirk said the focus on the forwards being explosive put the All Blacks "miles ahead" of the competition.

"We played an outstanding style of rugby," he said.

"We won big, and the reason we won big was because we were a lot better than a lot of teams because we were playing a new style of rugby that most teams hadn't caught up with.

"Look at the number of tries scored by the number 7 and number 6. The reason for that was we'd move the ball around a lot all over the field but we played a real continuity style of rugby."

It wasn't just tactically that the coaching trio had the team primed for the tournament. Kirk recalled how before the knockout stages, the team traveled to the Wairarapa where they trained on a paddock, before going off to spend downtime on farms in the area.

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"We stopped at a little shack in the middle of a field and we'd have a training run, then we'd just sort of lie around there waiting and these utes and 1970s Toyotas and Holdens roll up.

"We jump in them and off to go to various farms where we'd have two nights and a day, then get back to training at that same place.

"That was sort of our break, our mental release, then we were back for the quarterfinals."
The side had little trouble in their quarterfinal against Scotland, taking a 30-3 win before toppling Wales in a semifinal that was made more memorable by a fight.

David Kirk and Andy Dalton hoist the Rugby World Cup in 1987. Photo / Photosport
David Kirk and Andy Dalton hoist the Rugby World Cup in 1987. Photo / Photosport

Wales' Huw Richards was sent off for instigating a fight when he struck Gary Whetton during a lineout. The fight was quickly stopped when, with one punch, Wayne "Buck" Shelford knocked the Welsh lock out.

"The major crime in rugby was to start a fight. Of course, Wayne finished the fight by knocking the guy out with one punch, but in those days you could say – and I certainly did – to the referee that he did you a favour; he stopped the fight," Kirk recalled.

"What happened in those days was the ref would go and confide with the touch judge over who started this fight. He found out Huw Richards started it by punching Gary Whetton who was elbowing him – trying to get the ball off him – and so they determined the perpetrator of the crime was the guy who started the fight so he had to go off."

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