Wallabies’ 1991 triumph over England in final still resonates

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The World Cup journey began with a clunky 32-19 win over Argentina in Llanelli. The mercurial David Campese scored two tries, signalling the first of his brilliant individual performances. He was ultimately named player of the tournament.

Resting several key players, the Wallabies overcame Western Samoa 9-3 in muddy conditions in Pontypool before posting six tries to nil in a 38-3 demolition of Wales in Cardiff.

It was on the eve of this pool match when Dwyer, knowing the ability of his squad, delivered an emotional team-room speech concluding in a breaking voice, “Now we’ve got to take the opportunity. I do not want to die an unhappy man”.

Michael Lynagh takes a kick in a nail-biting World Cup quarter-final against Ireland.

Michael Lynagh takes a kick in a nail-biting World Cup quarter-final against Ireland.Credit:Getty

With the pool safely negotiated, it was now sudden death starting with the quarter-final against Ireland at Lansdowne Road. The cool head of Michael Lynagh, acting as captain after Farr-Jones succumbed to a knee injury, steered Australia to victory.

Ireland breakaway Gordon Hamilton scored a tearaway try to give the home team the lead with four minutes remaining. With defeat staring the Wallabies in the face, Lynagh commanded field position and engineered a back-line move which saw him cross for the match-winning try.

The victory set up a mouth-watering semi-final against the All Blacks in Dublin. The Wallabies produced one of their greatest first-half performances to race to a 13-0 lead by the break, with Campese scoring a scything try before sending Horan over for another with an audacious over-the-shoulder pass. The final score was 16-6.

The final produced only a single try, with Daly bulldozing over after a lineout win on the England try line. The game is remembered for Eales’ extraordinary second-half cover tackle on England five-eighth Rob Andrew when a try appeared certain. When Welsh referee Derek Bevan blew full-time, the celebrations began.

Australia produced one of their greatest first-half performances in the semi-final against the All Blacks.

Australia produced one of their greatest first-half performances in the semi-final against the All Blacks.Credit:Getty

With thousands of Australian and English supporters swarming across Twickenham, there was no celebratory lap of honour. Instead, the team and support staff filed down the crowded corridor into the sanctuary of the dressing room and belted out Advance Australia Fair. It had never been sung with such gusto or pride.

As the initial excitement subsided, the players slipped their battered bodies into the large bath tubs, taking turns to drink from the Cup, affectionately known as “Bill”.Each player hoisted the trophy aloft and their teammates yelled out their name, adding “world champion!”

British prime minister John Major was escorted into the room to pay tribute to the victors. He congratulated Farr-Jones, who was standing upright and naked as the day as he was born.

As the players pondered the magnitude of what had just been achieved, the thrill of victory was mixed with relief. The building pressure, burning desire and high expectations had finally been met. They had climbed their Everest to become Australia’s first Rugby World Cup champions.

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Hours later, the enormity of the triumph caught up with an exhausted Farr-Jones. Feeling unwell, he excused himself from the official post-match dinner.

With celebrations going through the night at the team hotel, the players faced the reality of a morning return flight to Sydney.

As they assembled, centre Anthony Herbert was carrying the Cup in its foam-padded travel bag and asked a passer-by, “Have you met Bill?” He then opened the bag to reveal the trophy adding, “We’re taking Bill home”.

*Greg Campbell is a Sydney-based communications expert and was the media manager for the 1991 World Cup Wallabies

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