Iconic Wallabies coach Alan Jones once referred to David Campese as the ‘Don Bradman of rugby’ and with good reason. He was the star of the 1991 World Cup triumph and arguably the greatest outside backs to ever don the yellow for Australia. Even today, when the assertive, straight-talking and often controversial man speaks, people listen.
Sports Gazette were provided the opportunity to have a chat with the player who made the “Goose Step” move what it is today. The 56-year-old spoke about all things rugby, the infamous sandwich board dare of 2003 and how he still is clueless of the whereabouts of the 1991 World Cup trophy.
With the Rugby World Cup 2019 in full swing and Japan doing a fantastic job as hosts, Campese was quick to praise the Asian country for their hospitality. Despite not being one of the renowned nations for rugby, he feels that taking the sport to Japan is a fantastic way to promote the sport globally.
“Rugby is a world sport. You have to spread word around. I think Japan have demonstrated that. The crowds are there, they’re very hospitable people, they’ve got a good structure and they want things to work to be successful. Yes, it’s not one of your traditional rugby nations but rugby’s still growing. The show the World Cup puts on is very vital for young kids to start playing rugby,” he stated.
Having played over 100 tests for the Wallabies, it’s almost impossible for Campese to not cheer for them at the World Cup. Despite them not having started the tournament too badly, he still thinks there’s a lot of improvement to be done and did not rule out the possibility of Australia’s rivals New Zealand completing a hat-trick of World Cups, having previously been victorious in 2011 and 2015.
When asked to pick who he thinks will lift the trophy in five weeks time, he very begrudgingly backed the All Blacks for glory. “I wish you hadn’t asked me that, but I think that New Zealand will win the World Cup again,” said the former Australian captain with a hint of disappointment.
However, Campese will be the first one to admit that he has often gone wrong with World Cup predictions. Known to be one of the harshest critics of English rugby, the Aussie icon was famously made to wear a Sandwich Board that read “I admit the best team won” after England’s memorable win in 2003.
Asked if he would consider making such a bet again, being the sport he is, he immediately agreed. He also stated that he doesn’t think England would win the trophy in Japan and wouldn’t mind if someone challenged him to it.
“If someone wants to bet and wants me to do a sandwich board again, I’m quite happy. I’m not too sure England will win this World Cup, we’ll have to wait and see. There’s a healthy rivalry between England and Australia and we’ll see what happens in five weeks time.”
While on the topic of World Cup wins, it’s nigh on impossible to separate David Campese from Australia’s famous win in 1991 – making them the first team ever to win it on foreign soil. Played at Twickenham Stadium, the home of English rugby, the Wallabies silenced the home crowd with a memorable 12-6 victory. Discussing how the players celebrated the historic occasion, he said, “After the World Cup win in ’91, a couple of players were in the bath with the trophy, just enjoying the moment. I think we’ve probably lost the ’91 World Cup replica somewhere in Australia. I don’t know where that is.”
Campo, as he was known by his friends and teammates alike, notoriously denied knowing who Stu Wilson was ahead of his debut against New Zealand. It was against Wilson when he first attempted a play to get the ball off his marker – which later went on to be known as the Goose Step.
Still used extensively by players in rugby today, Campese admits that he attempted it as an 8-year-old and it soon became a part of his game. He explained, “The Goose Step started when I was 8, playing in the Rugby League. There were two kids running up to me and I did something and went on to score while they collided heads. I never practised it but was just fortunate to use it at certain times. And the more options you have as a player, the more the opposition is going to worry about you.”
— Mitre 10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) September 16, 2019
Australia will find themselves in pole position in Pool D should they beat Wales on Sunday, but they will without winger Reece Hodge. Coach Michael Cheika has hit out at World Rugby stating that his tackle did not merit receiving a three-game ban. Campese has also shared Cheika’s opinion on the matter and cited a few examples that highlighted flaws in the officiating standards at the World Cup.
He said, “It’s quite interesting that they pick out one incident. Please go and check the Japanese player who shoulder-charged the Russian – can’t find that video anywhere. Owen Farrell punched someone in the ruck in front of the referee. So why do these things go unpunished and the Samoan’s get yellow carded for exactly the same thing? If Reiss got yellow carded, then nothing would have happened. So it’s very strange.”