Major teams: Auckland
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 1985-87
Test caps: 17 (17 starts)
Test points: 24 (6T)

Rugby’s Greatest: David Kirk

The No 9 from Wellington led a stellar team featuring John Kirwan, Michael Jones and Grant Fox to a 29-9 win over France in the final, after cantering through the group and knockout stages without so much as a bloody nose.

After taking a medical degree at Otago University, sport took precedence for Kirk as he shone first in sevens, in which he had enough pace to play on the wing, and then 15s, in which his talent was first given a wider audience playing for New Zealand Colts while in his early twenties.

His snappy service, livewire presence around the breakdown and sharp rugby brain saw him pegged as a future All Black and he made his full debut against England in 1985.

A future Oxford scholar, he took a principled stance after refusing to tour with the breakaway Cavaliers in 1986. His abstinence was on moral grounds as he felt the tour to South Africa was complicit in supporting apartheid.

By now firmly established for Auckland under coach John Hart, he wasn’t expected to lead the All Blacks into the World Cup until fate dealt regular captain Andy Dalton a poor hand after he had had to withdraw due to injury, to be replaced by a young Sean Fitzpatrick.

Kirk scored five tries as the hosts romped to the first world crown, including one in the final against France. “He was the shining light of New Zealand rugby,” Fitzpatrick said, “an outstanding scrum-half and an outstanding captain.”

Kirk retired from competitive rugby the following year after just 17 caps to take up a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University. He was just 26.

It was the springboard to a hugely successful business career that has seen him act as chief adviser to New Zealand prime minister Jim Bolger, a published author and CEO of Fairfax Media. He has also worked as a leading arbitrator in sporting disputes. Already an MBE, he was inducted into rugby’s Hall of Fame in 2011 and now resides in Sydney where he looks after his business portfolio.

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