RWC #50: New Zealand 70 Italy 6, 1987

The All Blacks' heavy defeat of Italy marked the opening game of the first ever tournament

New Zealand beat Italy 70-6 in the first ever World Cup match at Eden Park on May 22nd 1987. Photograph: Getty

New Zealand beat Italy 70-6 in the first ever World Cup match at Eden Park on May 22nd 1987. Photograph: Getty

 

Back where it all began.

A journey which started in the headquarters of French Railways, Paris, in March 1985 - when the members of the IRFB were first asked to vote on a proposal for an inaugural ‘World Rugby Cup', and said yes - came to its end on May 22nd 1987 at Eden Park, Auckland.

On a drizzly afternoon and in front of a half-full stadium - tournament organisers thought it a good idea to hold the opening game on a Friday afternoon to allow time for a full weekend of fixtures - co-hosts New Zealand took to the pitch to play Italy and thus the first ever Rugby World Cup came kicking and screaming into life.

The first game was perhaps a harbinger of things to come as the mighty All Blacks, one of the games oldest stewards and powerhouses, pummelled the Azzurri - back then a genuine minnow hailing from a nation which had only football on the brain - 70-6.

At the time, New Zealand’s points tally of 70 was an international record, eclipsing the score Ireland had put on Romania the previous year.

Craig Green, skipper David Kirk and John Kirwan all scored two tries apiece. Kirwan’s second still stands as one of the greatest scored not just at the World Cup, but ever.

Receiving the ball from Kirk at kick off Kirwan sets off from under his own posts and with both legs pumping like pistons strides from one end of the pitch to the other, blue shirts flailing themselves at him but not a single one getting close.

The result of the World Cup’s first ever game was entirely predictable. But it was also symbolic of a new era in which rugby’s old would entertain and embrace the new.

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