1995 was the World Cup that caught my imagination. Not only did I get to see some group games but I also followed the progress of the tournament extensively via L!ve TV, yes that short-lived cable television station that brought us such classic shows as “The Spanish Archer” (think of a strange talent show hosted by the guy who always declares “Juan Sheet” and you have the right mix), and “The Weather in Norwegian.”
To be fair, they covered the tournament very well, taking in the BBC Wales feeds for all Wales internationals and I remember being mildly impressed at the time.
Ten nations competed between the 7th October when it all started with England beating Australia, 20-16, through to the final on the 28th that saw Australia get revenge on England by 16-8.
This was also a World Cup with a theme song. T’Pau lead singer Carol Decker hit the charts (albeit briefly) with a song entitled “One Heart”
I hope that brings back memories…..
I attended two games during this World Cup. My first was at Wilderspool for an evening kick off between New Zealand and an unfancied Tonga team on 8th October. Warrington’s old home seemed packed to the rafters with 8,083 the declared gate. I remember it being a good night for rugby and I watched the bulk of the first half with one hand above my eyebrows as a strong sunset fell upon the old railway end. The game itself was a belter, perhaps one of my favorite ever games.
New Zealand eventually won 25-24 thanks to a late Matthew Ridge drop goal but it was the Tongans who won the favour of the Warrington crowd with their big hits, uncompromising style and some surprisingly good handling. I couldn’t stop thinking about the game and had to have another experience.
The second match I chose to attend was the group game involving England and Fiji a few days later. This was played at Wigan’s iconic Central Park ground. At the time I couldn’t drive and made my way on public transport. The bus was packed and I wondered just how many would be at the ground. I arrived early and stood on the sideline, to the left of what is now a Tesco super market and watched as more and more people made their way through the turnstiles. Again by the time the game kicked off the place was heaving and took on a life of its own.
There were 26,263 at the ground that night. In truth I could only see about 60 metres of the field without ducking past someone. I seemed to have the tallest man in the world to my right and a chain smoker to my left that would have given Doug Laughton a run for his money.
Bobbie Goulding pulled the strings for England and the crowd was richly entertained both at prematch and half-time by a combination of Fijian dancers and warriors.
I followed the rest of the games on TV, watching a nervous semi final that England eventually won 25-10 against Wales. That was nothing compared to a brilliant game between Australia and New Zealand.
Having just squeaked over the line against Tonga the Kiwis weren’t expected to do much against Australia, yet a spirited performance had them locked 20-all at full-time. Sadly for New Zealand, Australia won the game in twenty gruelling minutes of extra time, scoring two tries to secure the 30-20 success.
The rest, they say is history as the Kangaroos went on to win again.
All together now… “One heart, nation to nation, one world, playing the game….”
If you have other memories, I’d love to hear them, feel free to reply and share.