During my recent self-indulgent nostalgia trip back into the eighties I got to thinking about the best rugby football team I ever saw.
Before I go on, I hereby acknowledge that attempting to judge the merits of teams from different eras is fraught with difficulty being, by its very nature, entirely subjective. There have, after all, been a number of outstanding rugby teams during the decades in which I've followed the sport: the Welsh and British Lions teams of the seventies, for instance, or the Springboks of the nineties, or the England team from 1999-2003 and not forgetting, of course, the All Blacks in between just about every World Cup:)
Nevertheless, I can confidently declare that the best team I have ever witnessed was the Wallabies team that toured Britain and Ireland in 1984.
Put simply, the 1984 Wallabies captured my imagination like no other team had before or has since. Northern hemisphere rugby at the time (France excepted) was a largely pedestrian affair (plus ça change) featuring big, slow, cumbersome and mostly moustached forwards and, at least in England, life-threateningly uninpsirational backs. Anyone remember Brian Barley and Rob Lozowski in the England midfield for instance? The arrival of the free-flowing and exotic Aussies to our shores was therefore a breath of fresh air.
Those 1984 Wallabies were synonymous with running rugby, hardly surprsing given the talent within their back division. The likes of Mark Ella, David Campese, Roger Gould, Andrew Slack, Michael Lynagh, Brendan Moon, Matthew Burke and Nick Farr-Jones graced our rugby pitches that Autumn, playing rugby that was light years ahead of anything else on offer at the time.
Perhaps more surprising was the fact that their forward pack was also pretty damned useful. A powerful scrummaging front row featuring Topo Rodriguez, Tom Lawton and Andy McIntyre was ably assisted by athletic ball-handling back five forwards such as Steve Williams, Steve Cutler, Simon Poidevin, Steve Tuynman and David Codey who were more than capable of mixing it with the best we had to offer as well as supporting their talented three-quarters in open play.
On an 18 match tour the 1984 Wallabies contrived to lose 4 matches, but their 1st XV was more than a match for the home nations as they eased their way to a Grand Slam, beating England 19-6, Ireland 16-9, Wales 28-9 and Scotland 37-12.
Impressive results, but it was the way they achieved those results playing innovative and attractive rugby that will live long in the memory.
And love him or loathe him, David Campese was unarguably the star of the show - here's why: