HOW I WON THE RUGBY WORLD CUP

NO. 2 MICHAEL LY­NAGH 1991

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union -

In the sec­ond of a series talk­ing to World Cup­win­ning play­ers and coaches, Mick Cleary asks the Wal­la­bies leg­end about that Ire­land quar­ter-fi­nal

Ire­land. That is all any­one ever wants to quiz Michael Ly­nagh about. World Cup quar­ter-fi­nal, Lans­downe Road, Sun­day, Oct 20, 1991. How did the Aussies do it? How did they deny the boys in emer­ald green the most fa­mous of vic­to­ries, lead­ing the mighty Wal­la­bies through a mad­cap try from flanker Gor­don Hamil­ton with few min­utes to go, a score and a po­ten­tial up­set that had the crowd scram­bling over the hoard­ings to mob their hero of the hour, Hamil­ton for Ire­land, and the prospect of a World Cup semi-fi­nal.

It never did come to pass, of course, Ly­nagh him­self do­ing the dirty deed with a try in the corner to send Aus­tralia through to the semi-fi­nals by the skin of their teeth, 19-18. The Wal­la­bies fly-half still gets asked about that Hou­dini act, even head­ing back to Dublin for some RTE du­ties dur­ing this up­com­ing World Cup on the ba­sis of his fame-cum-no­to­ri­ety.

All such thoughts were a long way from Ly­nagh’s mind as he looked to­wards the 1991 World Cup. Even though the tour­na­ment was to have more sta­tus, a higher pro­file and wider cred­i­bil­ity as a global event than the in­au­gu­ral World Cup four years ear­lier, it still did not have the same pre­cisely-de­fined fo­cus that it does to­day when ev­ery­thing is geared to­wards it.

“The four-year pe­riod is now sacro­sanct,” said Ly­nagh. “Play­ers are nur­tured to that end, coaches hired to that end, too, and a World Cup can keep some of them in a job be­yond their sell-by date. Back in the am­a­teur days, the pride of wear­ing the Wal­laby jersey was the thing that drove us, whether it was in a Novem­ber Test against Scot­land or a World Cup. It re­ally meant some­thing to pull on the shirt in every match.”

Aus­tralia came into the tour­na­ment as joint favourites with New Zealand. They had smashed Eng­land 40-15 in Syd­ney that sum­mer and won the Bledis­loe Cup, too, af­ter beat­ing the All Blacks.

“Rugby in Aus­tralia wasn’t in

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