HOW I WON THE RUGBY WORLD CUP
NO. 2 MICHAEL LYNAGH 1991
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