The All Blacks 1987 masterstroke revealed

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New Zealand had been through the rugby grinder in the 1980s. The Springbok tour of 1981 had divided the country. That continued through an ongoing debate about whether the All Blacks should tour South Africa in 1985 before a High Court ruling stopped the tour.


And then, in 1986, the rebel Cavaliers tour occurred, when those All Blacks denied a trip to South Africa took matters into their own hands. That further divided the nation.


The Rugby World Cup, something New Zealand and Australia had fought the world rugby authorities over because they recognised the game needed it, was seen as a way to reunite the country.


The All Blacks, as expected, made their way through the preliminary rounds to reach the quarterfinals.


Hooker Sean Fitzpatrick recalled, on the All Blacks Podcast, Lochore's move to bring the side back onside with the core support of New Zealanders before the finals stage of the competition.


"BJ [Lochore] said we had to make an effort to win back the fans after what happened with the Cavaliers. Seventy per cent of New Zealand was turned off  rugby," Fitzpatrick said.


"We had to try to win them back. He said we were going to go to the community. 'We're going to train at schools, we're going to get you billeted.'



"We played our last pool game against Argentina in Wellington. Our quarterfinal was against Scotland in Christchurch. So, on Sunday, we just assumed we were flying to Christchurch.


"BJ said, 'Right, everyone on the bus, we're going across the hill, across the Remutakas, and I'm going to take you to my local pub in Eketahuna. And everyone went, 'Oh great, what a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, have a few beers, sing a few songs with the locals'.


"We got up there and there's all these utes full of bales of hay, dogs barking, kids everywhere, go into the pub and it's full of families," he said.


Lochore then told the players to listen.


"He said, 'Loe and Fitzpatrick, you're with the McDonald family.' We said, 'What?' He said, 'That's the McDonald family over there.' There were Mum and Dad and the kids. We get in the back of the ute and trundle off down the road and spend the night with them.


"It was absolutely fantastic. Great for the locals and great for us," he said.


It was a move well accepted around the country, as Lochore knew it would be. The All Blacks progressed to win the final with the nation behind them as they beat France 29-9 to win the Webb Ellis Cup.


Fitzpatrick said the All Blacks of 1987 were ahead of their time.


"We had a unique group of guys who were superbly fit. It was a perfect time for us in terms of the year, the calendar. It was June, the middle of the year, like the start of our season almost. We were fresh and ready to go.


"We got on really well, had good fun," he said.


That campaign laid a foundation for the next two or three years as the All Blacks carried all before them as the first world champions of the game.


Listen to the All Blacks Podcast on on Spotify or iTunes.



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