’87 All Black series: John Gallagher

To mark the 30-year anniversary of New Zealand winning the 1987 inaugural Rugby World Cup, Beyond the Mark will share memories from some of the All Black players’ and administrators’ involved in the successful campaign.


Tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?

After 16 years in education, I decided that I needed a change of environment so I have been working for the last 5 years in the property sector. My two sons are now grown up, the eldest is 25 and the youngest is just turning 21. The eldest is off to live and work in Melbourne so it’ll be an excuse to take a detour and visit friends in NZ more often than I have been. The youngest is also a rugby world cup winner, but he did it in at the Junior Rugby World Cup 2016 for England! Sorry about that! He’s currently an academy player with Saracens.

Fondest memories of the 1987 World Cup campaign?

Making my test debut against Italy at Eden Park, scoring a try in front of my dad (who had just flown in from England) against Scotland in the quarter final at Lancaster Park, and the relief when the final whistle went against France at Eden Park.

Best and worst roomie in ’87 and why?

Fortunately, most of my roomies were backs. I shared with mostly Greeno (Craig Green), Foxy (Grant Fox), Kirky (David Kirk) and I think JK (John Kirwan), Colt (Kieran Crowley) and possibly Bullit (Joe Stanley) during the ’87 RWC. There were never any problems as we were all on the same wavelength. I did have the pleasure of sharing a room with Wurzel (Andy Earl), a forward, when all the AB’s were billeted out to families in Pirinoa in the Wairarapa. It was a fantastic couple of days away from the intensity of the main cities and although Wurzel tried his best, he was, by some distance, the worst roommate!

Why do you think the ’87 team was so successful?

A combination of the right balance in the squad, team selection in terms of playing ability and honest, hard workers who understood team tactics, strategy and ethos. Competition for places was fierce but positive. Good lines of communication throughout the squad. Many of the players were peaking in form during May and June in 1987. Good leadership throughout the squad. Good management and coaching. A common goal – losing wasn’t an option.

What was your motivation to play?

I loved playing rugby for the athleticism, creativity, teamwork, physicality and camaraderie. I always strived to play to the best of my ability and treated each game as if it may be my last.

Best and worst advice you’ve received?

Best was to spend the 1984 season in New Zealand for the Oriental Rongotai Club. Worst was changing codes in 1990.

What advice would you give to the modern day rugby player?

Focus on the present. Learn from your mistakes but don’t dwell on them. Work hard. Enjoy!

Would you have liked to play in the professional era and why?

Yes and no. Having the time and financial opportunity to perfect your talent in the game that you love would definitely be a bonus. The greater chance of injury or player burn out in an ever increasingly crammed season would be the concern.

What’s your biggest dislike in today’s rugby environment?

The volume of negative scrutiny through social media.

What is your proudest achievement outside of rugby?


Quick fire round: 5 things you didn’t know about John Gallagher

  1. Learning Guitar, a favourite pastime – needs much more practice!
  2. Learning Italian – much more attention needed
  3. Just started fly fishing!
  4. Recent DNA ancestry results: 89% Irish but less than 1% English! The rest is an equal mixture of Greco/Italian, Scandinavian and South Asian!
  5. Two of my great grandfathers fought in the First World War at the Battle of the Somme. One died in 1916 fighting with the Royal Irish Fusiliers 8th Battalion and one survived with the Royal Leicestershire’s 8th Battalion.


Photo credit: The Telegraph

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