Tuesday 18th August 2015
A native of Queensland, John Eales is rightfully considered to be the most successful captain in the history of Australian rugby, leading his country on 60 of his 86 international appearances between 1991 and 2001.
Despite playing as a forward Eales was a skilled kicker and as an international he scored 137 points for Australia, the vast majority coming from penalties and conversions. He remains the highest scoring forward in test history.
The highlight of his glittering career came in 1999 when he led Australia to victory in the final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup. The Wallabies defeated Wales and South Africa on their way to the final against France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. There, a resounding 35-12 victory saw Eales lift the Ellis Webb Trophy in the Welsh capital, cementing his place amongst Aussie folklore.
Before his retirement in 2001 Eales was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to rugby and has since been inducted into the International Rugby Board of Fame and the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
"There will be a lot of sporting history in that room and if you like your rugby, and can appreciate what some of these figures have gone through and been involved with, it will be a great night, for sporting reminiscing but also for the human side of it as well."
JOHN EALES (CAPTAIN - AUSTRALIA 1999)
Q. You are part of an exclusive group of Captains to have lifted the Webb Ellis trophy, who do you think will become the 8th man to join your club and will that happen at this World Cup or will Ritchie McCaw be the first man to win the trophy twice?
A. These sort of questions are very tough. It is obvious that the All Blacks are favourites and that Richie (McCaw) has been a fabulous leader. But my sincere hope is that the tournament is genuinely and deeply competitive so that we can all thrill to rugby being showcased round the world.
Q. Only four teams have ever won the World Cup, which country outside New Zealand, England, South Africa and Australia stands the best chance of upsetting the odds?
A. France at World Cups have a tendency to deliver the unexpected. They have a singular focus at those tournaments that they don’t seem to manage at other times
Q. Who would be your three young stars to watch in the tournament?
1. Michael Hooper (Australia) who has the ability to produce the same high quality of performance in the 80th minute as he produces in the first minute.
2. Jesse Kriel (South Africa) A converted full-back who scored on debut for the Springboks against Australia in Brisbane.
3. A Pacific Island player with whom we are not yet familiar. These guys always come through at Rugby World Cups when they flourish from time spent together.
Michael Hooper (below)
Q. What was your last meal prior to you becoming a winning world cup captain?
A. A pasta dish, with a tomato and light meat-based sauce
Q. Who was the toughest opponent you faced at a World Cup?
A. There were many down the years but Ireland Lock, Neil Francis stand out in my mind, when I was a youngster at my first World Cup in 1991. Ireland almost beat us in the quarter-final and Francis was a wily operator.
Neil Francis (below)
Q. What’s the one piece of advice you would give a young player?
A. Don’t Die Wondering. You have got talent so go out and show it.
Q. Who was your boyhood sports hero?
A. I’m going to overload here: three in rugby, three in cricket, my favourite sports. Paul McLean, Tony Shaw and Mark Loane in rugby, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Greg Chappell in cricket. Can I put David Gower in as well? I loved watching him bat growing up.
Tony Shaw (below)
Q. If not rugby, what would you have done?
A. I know I ought to have studied more but sport was a big facet of my life and I would loved to have given cricket a real crack. I was an all-rounder, a batsman originally more as a bowler in the latter stages, not a fast bowler but I like to think awkward.
Q. The laws of the game have changed greatly over the years; is there anything in rugby you’d change?
A. We have been trialling possible law changes in our National Rugby Championship with a conversion worth three points (from two) and a penalty goal two points (from three). The outcome has been marked. In an eight team league, with semi-finals and a final at the end of the competition, there were only 12, yes 12, penalties attempted, never mind landed. In Australia, we are more challenged to produce sporting spectacles that are great to watch. I can enjoy scrums, tight contests and all that. The average person on the street is not going to be converted to rugby because of that detail. We have got to be careful not to confuse movement with entertainment but we have also got to be careful not to ignore the need for movement.
Q. What's the best and worst thing about retirement from playing the game?
A. The best thing about retirement is that I was ready to move on and was at peace within myself at being able to throw myself whole-heartedly into other projects. The worst is that it is hard to keep fit when you haven’t got someone shouting at you or hauling you out of bed.
Q. Why should someone buy a ticket to the Rugby Captains Dinner?
A. There will be a lot of sporting history in that room and if you like your rugby, and can appreciate what some of these figures have gone through and been involved with, it will be a great night, for sporting reminiscing but also for the human side of it as well.