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WALES V IRELAND 1987

ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington

It is one of most common pub quiz questions – which was the first country Wales played against at the Rugby World Cup?

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The first global competition started for Wales on the other side of the world, in windy Wellington, on 25 May, 1987, but against very familiar opponents – Ireland.

Of all the 15 other teams in the tournament, Tony Gray’s side just had to pick out the team they had last played in the Five Nations a mere 51 days earlier in Cardiff. If that game turned into a washout for Wales, who lost 15-11 on home turf, the game in the New Zealand capital was hardly a classic.

DFP – Leaderboard

1987 World Cup programme

Ireland chose to use the notorious Wellington wind in the first half and knew they had blundered when they changed ends with only two Michael Kiernan penalties to show for their efforts.

“Wales, universally lambasted for being poor travellers, beat the wind and Ireland at Athletic Park . . . that simple statement disguises a mass of private battles and some skulduggery,” wrote John Mason in the Daily Telegraph.

“The victory by Wales reflected the superiority of their forwards. Ireland were all at sea. Half a gale blew down Athletic Park and Ireland, having won the toss, took advantage of the wind first time round.

“They were wrong, if only because Wales, given the same opportunity, would have played against the elements initially, as Richard Moriarty, their captain, intimated afterwards.”

Centre Mark Ring had the distinction of scoring Wales’ first Rugby World Cup try, his first for his country, and Paul Thorburn added a penalty. Two drop goals from outside half Jonathan Davies, still a Welsh World Cup record, completed the victory and set Gray’s men on course for a quarter-final shoot-out with England.

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The Irish never really recovered from picking the wrong end in their opening game and were beaten by Australia in the knock-out stages. It would be another eight years before they got their chance of revenge, but how they took it.

Terry Kingston had made his Irish debut in Wellington and was captain by the time the 1995 World Cup came around in South Africa. Whoever won the battle at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, would go through to the quarter-finals and it was the Irish eyes that were smiling in the end as they won 24-23 to send Wales home on an early flight.

There was a third World Cup meeting back in Wellington in 2011 at the quarter-final stage. This time Wales came out on top quite comfortably as they ran in three tries in a 22-10 win to reach the semi-finals for the second time in New Zealand.

MARK RING ON HIS HISTORIC TRY

“I was actually in that move three times. I also remember John Devereux throwing me the most ridiculous scoring pass from half a yard away. He used his two hands like in a netball throw. It wasn’t a pass, it was a netball chuck!

“It’s a good job I was concentrating because a lot of boys would have dropped that ball. Luckily I caught it and fell over the line. John had amazing athleticism, he was as strong as an ox and would have been our number one in terms of being the most powerful player. But he wasn’t the best passer!

“They were talking about ‘Windy Wellington’ before the game and it was exactly as they said it would be. It was howling a gale.

“We won the toss and played against the wind and seemed to control the pace of the game. We turned around with the wind behind us and Jonathan Davies dropped two goals to seal it.

“He wouldn’t even have attempted them against the wind. We always felt comfortable and we had too much for Ireland at that time. We had too many better players than them and more confidence in our collective ability.”

MORE MEMORIES FROM 1987

That historic World Cup debut came at Athletic Park, Wellington, a mere six weeks after the Irish had come to Cardiff and plundered a 15-11 win to make it a third successive triumph in the Welsh capital. It wasn’t the way in which the Welsh coaching team, headed by Tony Gray, wanted to enter into the World Cup.

There were five changes to the Welsh side from the beginning of April to the end of May – Mark Wyatt, Billy James, Steve Blackmore, Steve Sutton and Phil Davies being replaced by Paul Thorburn, Kevin Phillips, Stuart Evans, Richard Moriarty and Gareth Roberts – while the confident Irish just made two changes to their pack.

One of the Welsh changes was at hooker, forcing the man who had led Wales in their last game, Aberavon stalwart Billy James, to return home before a ball had been kicked. He was injured 20 minutes after the side had been announced ahead of training on Friday, 22 May. He badly damaged his knee and so became the first of five Welsh replacements flown out during the tournament.

James’ misfortune opened the door for the former Wales team manager, Alan Phillips, to fly out to New Zealand. He had to be called away from the bar at a local night club to hear about his call-up for the man who had taken over his place in the Wales team five years earlier.

“I was in my local nightspot in Porthcawl with my wife on a Friday night when my mother-in law, who was babysitting for us, rang the club to find me. ‘You’d better come home now, Ray Williams (WRU Secretary) is ringing you in half an hour’,” he said.

“I legged it home and Ray told me I’d been called up due to Billy James injuring his knee. He said they wanted me to fly out as soon as they could. I’d been due to go on tour to Benidorm with Cardiff and that’s all I’d been thinking of up to that point.

“We had a massive beer kitty thanks to a lot of fundraising, and we got kitted out by Peacocks in Cardiff with some casual clothes. Next thing you know, I’m getting measured up for a World Cup blazer.

“The panic button went because I didn’t think I was going to be fit enough for international rugby, even though I trained pretty hard for the amateur days. The flight took 29 hours, so all I was doing was sit-ups and press-ups on the plane.”

Phillips may have been in the international wilderness for five years, and nearing veteran status at 32, but he made the most of his call-up. He started three games and won them all – against Canada, England in the quarter-final and Australia in the third-place play-off match. He also packed down in the middle of an all-Cardiff front row against the Canadians with Jeff Whitefoot and Steve Blackmore.

Not only that, he made his own piece of history in the game against Canada in the third round of pool matches when he became the first Welsh forward to score a try at the World Cup. Kevin Phillips was the only fit hooker Wales had to play against Ireland and loose head prop Anthony Buchanan had to provide cover on the bench.

WALES AT 1987 RUGBY WORLD CUP

WALES SQUAD

Richard Moriarty (Swansea, captain), Paul Thorburn (Neath), Ieuan Evans (Llanelli), Adrian Hadley (Cardiff), Glenn Webbe (Bridgend), John Devereux (Bridgend), Mark Ring (Cardiff), Kevin Hopkins (Swansea), Bleddyn Bowen (SW Police), Jonathan Davies (Neath), Malcolm Dacey (Swansea), Robert Jones (Swansea), Ray Giles (Aberavon), Jeff Whitefoot (Cardiff), Anthony Buchanan (Llanelli), Steve Blackmore (Cardiff), Stuart Evans (Neath), Kevin Phillips (Neath), Billy James (Aberavon), Rob Norster (Cardiff), Steve Sutton (SW Police), Huw Richards (Neath), Gareth Roberts (Cardiff), Paul Moriarty (Swansea), Richie Collins (SW Police), Phil Davies (Llanelli)
Replacements: Alan Phillips (Cardiff) for James; Mark Titley (Bridgend) for Webbe; David Young (Swansea) for Evans; John Rawlins (Newport) for Whitefoot; Richard Webster (Swansea) for Norster

Manager: Clive Rowlands; Coach: Tony Gray; Assistant Coach: Derek Quinnell

Pool 2
25 May Wales 13 – 6 Ireland – Athletic Park, Wellington
Wales: P Thorburn (Neath), I Evans (Llanelli), J Devereux (Bridgend), M Ring (Cardiff), A Hadley (Cardiff), J Davies (Neath), R Jones (Swansea), J Whitefoot (Cardiff), K Phillips (Neath), S Evans (Neath), R Moriarty (Swansea, captain), R Norster (Cardiff), G Roberts (Cardiff), P Moriarty (Swansea), R Collins (SW Police)
Scorers: Try: M Ring; Pen: P Thorburn; DG: J Davies 2
Reps Unused: G Webbe (Bridgend), M Dacey (Swansea), R Giles (Aberavon), A Buchanan (Llanelli), H Richards (Neath)

Ireland: H MacNeil; T Ringland, B Mullin, M Kiernan, K Crossan, P Dean, M Bradley, P Orr, T Kingston, D Fitzgerald, D Lenihan (captain), W Anderson, P Matthews (J Glennon), B Spillane, D McGrath
Scorer: Pens: M Kiernan 2

Referee: K Fitzgerald (Australia).

29 May Wales 29 – 16 Tonga – The Showgrounds, Palmerston North
Wales: P Thorburn (Neath); G Webbe (Bridgend), K Hopkins (Swansea), M Ring (Cardiff), A Hadley (Cardiff); M Dacey (Swansea), R Jones (Swansea); A Buchanan (Llanelli), K Phillips (Neath), S Evans (Neath), R Moriarty (Swansea, captain), H Richards (Neath), P Moriarty (Swansea), P Davies (Llanelli), G Roberts (Cardiff)
Reps: J Davies (Neath) for Dacey; S Blackmore (Cardiff) for Evans
Reps Unused: I Evans (Llanelli), R Giles (Aberavon), A Phillips (Cardiff), S Sutton (SW Police)
Scorers: Tries: G Webbe 3, A Hadley; Cons: P Thorburn 2; Pens: P Thorburn 2; DG: J Davies

Tonga: T Ete’aki; M Vunipola, S Mohi, T Kitekei’aho, Q Fiela; A Amone (A Liava’a), T Fifita; V Lutua, A Fungavaka, H Tupou (L Va’eno), M Tu’ungafasi, K Fine, T Tu’uta, F Valu (captain), M Feilse
Scorers: Tries: Q Fiela, T Fifita; Con: A Liava’a; Pens: A Amone, A Liava’a

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand)

03 Jun   Wales 40 – 9 Canada – Rugby Park, Invercargill

Wales: P Thorburn (Neath); I Evans (Llanelli), J Devereux (Bridgend), B Bowen (SW Police), A Hadley (Cardiff); J Davies (Neath, captain), R Giles (Aberavon); J Whitefoot (Cardiff), A Phillips (Cardiff), S Blackmore (Cardiff), S Sutton (SW Police), R Norster (Cardiff), P Moriarty (Swansea), P Davies (Llanelli), G Roberts (Cardiff)
Reps: R Moriarty (Swansea) for P Moriarty; K Hopkins (Swansea) for Bowen
Reps Unused: M Ring (Cardiff), R Jones (Swansea), K Phillips (Neath), A Buchanan (Llanelli)
Scorers: Tries: I Evans 4, B Bowen, J Devereux, A Hadley, A Phillips; Cons: P Thorburn (4)

Canada: M Wyatt; P Palmer, T Woods, S McTavish, S Gray; G Rees, I Stuart (D Tucker); R McKellar, K Svoboda, B Handson, R Hindson, H de Goede (captain), D Breen, G Ennis, R Frame
Scorer: Pens: G Rees 3

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand)

Pool 2 Final Standings

P W D L F A PTS
WALES 3 3 3 0 82 31 6
IRELAND 3 2 0 1 84 41 4
CANADA 3 1 0 2 65 90 2
TONGA 3 0 0 0 29 92 0

Quarter-Final
08 Jun   Wales 16 – 3 England – Ballymore, Brisbane
Wales: P Thorburn (Neath); I Evans (Llanelli), J Devereux (Bridgend), B Bowen (SW Police), A Hadley (Cardiff); J Davies (Neath), R Jones (Swansea); A Buchanan (Llanelli), A Phillips (Cardiff), D Young (Swansea), R Moriarty (Swansea, captain), R Norster (Cardiff), G Roberts (Cardiff), P Moriarty (Swansea), R Collins (SW Police)
Rep: H Richards (Neath) for Norster
Reps Unused: M Ring (Cardiff), M Dacey (Swansea), R Giles (Aberavon), S Blackmore (Cardiff), K Phillips (Neath)
Scorers: Tries: R Jones, G Roberts, J Devereux; Cons: P Thorburn 2

England: J Webb; M Harrison (captain), K Simms, J Salmon, R Underwood; P Williams, R Harding; P Rendall (G Chilcott), B Moore, G Pearce, W Dooley, N Redman, P Winterbottom, D Richards, G Rees
Scorer: Pen: J Webb

Referee: R Hourquet (France)

Semi-Final
14 Jun   Wales 6 – 49 New Zealand – Ballymore, Brisbane
Wales: P Thorburn (Neath); I Evans (Llanelli), J Devereux (Bridgend), B Bowen (SW Police), A Hadley (Cardiff); J Davies (Neath), R Jones (Swansea); A Buchanan (Llanelli), K Phillips (Neath), D Young (Swansea), R Moriarty (Swansea, captain), H Richards (Neath), P Moriarty (Swansea), R Collins (SW Police), P Davies (Llanelli)
Red Card: H Richards
Rep: S Sutton (SW Police) for Collins
Reps Unused: M Ring (Cardiff), M Dacey (Swansea), R Giles (Aberavon), S Blackmore (Cardiff), A Phillips (Cardiff)
Scorers: Try: J Devereux; Con: P Thorburn

New Zealand: J Gallagher; J Kirwan, J Stanley (B McCahill), W Taylor, C Green; G Fox, D Kirk (captain); S McDowell, S Fitzpatrick, J Drake, G Whetton, M Pierce, A Whetton, M Brooke-Cowden, W Shelford,
Scorers: Tries: J Kirwan 2, W Shelford 2, J Drake, A Whetton, J Stanley, M Brooke-Cowden; Cons: G Fox 7; Pen: G Fox

Referee: K Fitzgerald (Australia)

Bronze Final
18 Jun   Wales 22 – 21 Australia – International Stadium, Rotorua
Wales: P Thorburn (Neath); I Evans (Llanelli), J Devereux (Bridgend), M Ring (Cardiff), A Hadley (Cardiff); J Davies (Neath), R Jones (Swansea); A Buchanan (Llanelli), A Phillips (Cardiff), S Blackmore (Cardiff), R Moriarty (Swansea, captain), S Sutton (SW Police), G Roberts (Cardiff), R Webster (Swansea), P Moriarty (Swansea)
Reps Unused: Malcolm Dacey (Swansea), Ray Giles (Aberavon), Kevin Hopkins (Swansea), Dai Young (Swansea), Kevin Phillips (Neath), Phil Davies (Llanelli)
Scorers: Tries: G Roberts, P Moriarty, A Hadley; Cons: P Thorburn 2; Pens: P Thorburn 2

Australia: A Leeds; D Campese, M Burke, A Slack (captain), P Grigg (N Farr-Jones); M Lynagh, B Smith; A McIntyre, T Lawton, C Lillicrap (E Rodriguez), S Cutler, T Coker, D Codey, S Poidevin, S Tuynman
Red Card: D Codey
Scorers: Tries – M Burke, P Grigg; Cons – M Lynagh (2); Pens – M Lynagh (2); DG – M Lynagh

Referee: F Howard (England)

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ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
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ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
ON THIS DAY: World Cup kicks off in windy Wellington
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