We look at the seven men who have captained their team to World Cup glory and ask if there are qualities they all share.
What does it take to captain a team to World Cup victory? We look at the seven men who have done it and assess whether they had similar qualities or attributes and try to provide some kind of insight into what kind of leader is needed to be successful.
1987 DAVID KIRK NEW ZEALAND
TOURNAMENT: 1987 POSITION: Halfback AGE ON DEBUT: 24 AGE WHEN FIRST CAPTAIN: 25 CAPS BEFORE BECOMING CAPTAIN: 4 TESTS AS CAPTAIN: 11 TOTAL CAPS: 17 KEY QUALITIES: Huge intellect. Emotional intelligence. Articulate, worldly and cognitive of team dynamics and the respective strengths and weaknesses of those around him.
David Kirk, it could be said, was an atypical All Black captain. He wasn’t a blood, guts and thunder orator, or a man of the land, follow-me, type of leader. There isn’t really any convenient box in which to place him.
Kirk has a huge intellect. He’s a deeply educated man – has medical and law degrees – with a huge cerebral capacity. These were the qualities that earned him the All Black captaincy when Andy Dalton was unable to play at the 1987 World Cup.
Dalton was a simple, gee-them-up sort – captain on the basis of his longevity, seniority and commitment to the team. Kirk was articulate, smart – almost on a different level to his teammates. He wasn’t universally popular – having made the decision on moral grounds not to tour South Africa in 1986 with the rebel Cavaliers.
But if some of the senior All Blacks were wary about him, they didn’t show it in 1987.
They backed Kirk as captain and played for him. They were a galvanised and united force and that was largely down to Kirk taking a light touch approach as leader.
He had big personalities and strong characters such as Buck Shelford, Sean Fitzpatrick, Gary Whetton and Grant Fox whom he could trust to lead and unite the team. Kirk’s emotional intelligence, temperament and understanding of the collective desire was a critical factor in his ability to empower others and play an understated role as captain. Kirk, who retired the year after the World Cup at 26, has shown the depth of his character and breadth of his vision in the business world where he has held several senior roles with major organisations and made millions.