Once known as the ‘trash-talking’ king of rugby, George Gregan doesn’t give dull interviews.
And in the latest episode of the World Rugby Podcast, the former Wallabies scrum-half, whose wit is as sharp as his pass, is in typically good form.
All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson scored 40 tries in 60 caps, a strike rate better than that of Jonah Lomu.— The Rugby Paper (@TheRugbyPaper) April 19, 2020
The quality of this tackle by George Gregan can’t be overstated.pic.twitter.com/QMFTtrgAxs
Talking to presenter Sean Maloney, Gregan gives great insight into how the Wallabies drew on their emotional maturity as a group to win Rugby World Cup 1999.
Unsurprisingly, THAT tackle – on All Blacks winger Jeff Wilson – gets a mention too, while he also touches on his love of golf, and a ‘fanboy’ moment with Tiger Woods.
Gregan kicks off by speaking fondly of the 1984 Grand Slam tour when, as a wide-eyed 11-year-old, he watched Alan Jones’ Grand Slam-winning Wallabies in awe back home on ABC television.
“That’s when I thought, ‘wow, wouldn’t it be incredible to represent your country,” he says.
Gregan did so a record 139 times, from 1994-2007.
WHAT AN INTRODUCTION!
It did not take long for him to make his mark with his corner-flagging, try-saving tackle on Wilson against New Zealand becoming part of the Bledisloe Cup’s folklore.
“That stadium (the Sydney Football Stadium) is knocked down now but at its peak it may have held 42,000 people when it was absolutely packed to the rafters. But I’ve probably talked to 80,000 people who say they were there in that corner when I made the tackle!” he says jokingly.
Gregan and Australia were powerless to stop Jonah Lomu scoring in the corner six years later in Sydney, though, a match that the Brumbies legend rates as the best he’s ever played in despite the result (a 39-35 defeat).
“The thing about those All Blacks games, they are always fast and furious,” he says.
“David Wilson, Jason Little, David Campese … they all said to me to trust your instincts, and it was the best advice I ever had because I didn’t have chance to overthink it.”
Winning a Rugby World Cup is, without doubt, the highlight of any player’s career, and Gregan is no different.
His pass to Owen Finegan sealed France’s fate in the final and capped what Gregan says was a hugely enjoyable experience from start to finish.
“We were based in Ireland for about the first month for the pool stages, in an old manor house in Port Marnock, about 25-30 miles outside of Dublin,” he recalls.
“It felt like we were on tour, there was lots of laughter and we were very relaxed even though we knew we were there to do business.
“What I think stands out most for that group is the ability to switch on and be really focused when we needed to be. We had a really good big match temperament.
“Once we got through the Ireland game in Dublin, our first real big test, I think that was the start of us believing we can potentially get this done.”
CAUGHT UP IN THE MOMENT
In 2013, Gregan was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in Dublin alongside a host of other Wallaby greats.
“It was something I wasn’t expecting, and it was pretty amazing to receive that. When you are actually performing and playing games, you are just caught up in that moment but when someone puts your name forward and gives you that call, it gives you a chance to reflect on your career. It was a really humbling experience.”
For once, it seems, Gregan was almost lost for words.