Major teams: Auckland, Harlequins
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1987-97
New Zealand caps: 58 (54 starts)
Test points: 89 (17T, 3DG)
How many forwards are best remembered for kicking a drop-goal? Not many, but the extraordinary kick Zinzan Brooke slotted from almost 50m out during New Zealand’s 1995 World Cup semi-final win over England left an indelible imprint on the memory of anyone who saw it.
The three points helped New Zealand win 45-29 and stole just a little of the limelight from Jonah Lomu, who battered his way over for four tries that day.
It was the 31st Test in Brooke’s 58-cap career and the dominant role the No 8 was playing in the All Blacks side at that stage disguises the stuttering start he made.
The son of a farmer from the countryside just north of Auckland, Brooke first turned out for the All Blacks against Argentina in June 1987, but had to wait until July 1989 for his second cap as Buck Shelford was still first choice.
By 1991 Brooke was firmly established in the New Zealand side and the following year he was joined by Robin, one of his four brothers, who won 62 caps.
Strong and agile, Zinnie was a back-row like no other. “He had better kicking and handling skills than some fly-halves playing international rugby,” former England captain Will Carling wrote in 2007. “You align that with his strength and ability to read the game – he was unique.”
He captained Auckland Blues to Super 12 titles in 1996 and 1997 and also played for New Zealand Maori.
Brooke’s 1995 drop-goal proved to be no one-off, as he kicked another against South Africa in 1996 and his third and last in Test rugby versus Wales in November 1997. The 17 Test tries he scored was a world record for a forward when he won his last cap, against England at Twickenham in 1997.
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Brooke stayed on in London, playing for Harlequins in 39 Premiership and Heineken Cup games from 1998-2000 and coaching the club until 2002. He turned out for Coventry in 2002-03, then played for his new home-town club, Windsor, where the father of six is still a member and coaches youngsters including his son.
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