The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY WORLD CUP -

FOUR min­utes to go in a World Cup quar­ter-fi­nal and, with a former Howe of Fife player hav­ing scored a vi­tal try against them, the Wal­la­bies were fac­ing a shock exit from the tour­na­ment.

What hap­pened next has gone down in the folk­lore of Aus­tralian rugby and has been cited by Clive Wood­ward, England’s World Cup-win­ning man­ager, as the per­fect ex­am­ple of his T-CUP (Think­ing Cor­rectly Un­der Pres­sure) phi­los­o­phy, which is of­ten mis­tak­enly de­fined as “think­ing clearly un­der pres­sure”.

Ire­land made mis­takes that gave Aus­tralia the chance to clinch the vic­tory and their stand-off and play­maker duly took it. To say the way they took it set them up to go on to beat the All Blacks and be­come world cham­pi­ons is fact rather than hy­poth­e­sis be­cause the match in ques­tion took place not a fort­night ago but 24 years pre­vi­ously.

Those Wal­la­bies of 1991, shocked into ac­tion not by the then two-year-old Pe­ter Horne and his then un­born fu­ture mid­field part­ner Mark Ben­nett, but a try from Ire­land flanker Gor­don Hamil­ton who, like Horne, played for the Cu­par club be­fore mov­ing into the elite game, met the All Blacks in a semi-fi­nal a week af­ter Michael Ly­nagh hauled them out of the mire and went on to beat England in the fi­nal.

It is not lift­ing the Webb El­lis Tro­phy that Ly­nagh re­mem­bers as his ca­reer high­light, how­ever. In­stead he is most proud of the way, hav­ing taken over the cap­taincy with his half-back part­ner Nick Farr-Jones hav­ing been re­placed, he and his team-mates han­dled the sit­u­a­tion af­ter go­ing be­hind so late in that match. He was also par­tic­u­larly pleased that it was sin­gled out by Wood­ward as such a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what he be­lieves in.

With Bernard Fo­ley – whose head-to-head with All Black great Dan Carter will be cru­cial in this year’s fi­nal – hav­ing kept his head to kick the win­ning penalty when the op­por­tu­nity in his side’s quar­ter-fi­nal arose, par­al­lels with this year’s tour­na­ment are ob­vi­ous, then – right down to the All Blacks be­ing the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons – and for all that rugby and its play­ers have changed al­most be­yond recog­ni­tion since those am­a­teur times, the cur­rent Wal­la­bies can take in­spi­ra­tion from the achieve­ments of their pre­de­ces­sors.

Stephen Larkham, who wore the gold No.10 jer­sey when Aus­tralia won the tour­na­ment for a sec­ond time in 1999 and is now on their coach­ing staff, reck­ons the cur­rent team is bet­ter than the one he played in, and while it is pretty point­less to make com­par­isons with that side, Ly­nagh’s 1991 win­ners or the 1984 Grand Slam team in which he was also a key fig­ure, th­ese Wal­la­bies have, as they so of­ten seem to do with their ex­tremely lim­ited resources as very much a mi­nor­ity sport in their coun­try, timed their run to the World Cup per­fectly.

In terms of their own ef­forts, rather than any­thing fur­ther back in his­tory, they can draw upon hav­ing won the South­ern Hemi­sphere Rugby Cham­pi­onship this sea­son, beat­ing the All Blacks on the way, while even in the course of this tour­na­ment there was a mo­ment when the gap in the bet­ting be­tween them and the favourites closed to the point of be­ing vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent when they took England apart in the pool match which ended the hosts’ in­ter­est.

Fur­ther­more, un­like New Zealand, who trailed Ar­gentina at half-time in their pool match, they did not con­cede a try to what is surely the best-ever Pu­mas side last week­end. New Zealand failed, for the first time ever, to pick up a try bonus point in a pool match that day, whereas the Wal­la­bies scored four against them.

More than any­thing, though, Aus­tralia know that hav­ing been chal­lenged week af­ter week dur­ing this com­pe­ti­tion – and it is rare for a tour­na­ment-win­ning side not to have at least one close call – they have re­peat­edly man­aged to think both clearly and cor­rectly when the big mo­ments have come in matches.

DE­CID­ING ROLE: Aus­tralia’s Bernard Fo­ley and New Zealand’s Dan Carter

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