Ian Kirkpatrick left an indelible imprint on the game. The Kiwi blindside belongs in the company of the very best who ever played
Major teams: Poverty Bay, Canterbury
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1967-77
New Zealand caps: 39 (38 starts)
Test points: 57 (16T)
When he emerged in the mid-1960s, flankers usually played left and right, rather than openside and blindside, but Kirkpatrick helped shape the role of the blindside flanker as we know it today.
A farmer, he learned his rugby at Auckland’s Kings College, joined the Poverty Bay club at 20 in 1966, then moved to Canterbury a year later. New Zealand coach Fred Allen capped him on tour in France that year and Kirkpatrick responded with a try on debut.
A year later he became the first All Black to be used as a substitute, coming on when Brian Lochore broke his thumb against Australia in Sydney. Having warmed up by running down the stairs from the reserve seats, Kirkpatrick shredded the Wallaby defence to score a hat-trick in a 27-11 win and for the next nine years he was one of the first names on the All Blacks team-sheet.
Tall and athletic, his uninhibited, dynamic style brought him 115 tries in 289 first-class games, including 16 in Tests – an All Blacks record until Stuart Wilson bettered it in 1983.
His most spectacular score was the 55m burst out of a maul against the 1971 Lions in the Christchurch second Test, Kirkpatrick reflecting: “Pinetree (Colin Meads) always said he had a part to play in that because he gave me the ball. It’s funny, you break out and set off. They came at me and I was able to push them off until I hit the corner. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Kirkpatrick needed an injection to play in the next Test having injured a rib whilst handling a farm horse.
He captained New Zealand in nine Tests in 1972-73 prior to bowing out in the series victory over the Lions in 1977.
Kirkpatrick retired in 1979 but has stayed involved with rugby via media work, as a mentor for young players and as a patron of Ngatapa rugby club. He was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2003.