Twelve Feet Tall
Twelve Feet Tall
Tony Ward, Justin Doyle
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Ireland may be a powerhouse in international rugby in 2015, with its club teams of Leinster, Munster and Ulster perennially performing brilliantly in Europe, but to many people of a certain age the late 1970s and early 1980s were a golden period, too. Even though the sport was thrillingly amateurish in spirit as well as organisation, their most famous club win, arguably, was a thrilling performance from a Munster team led by Tony Ward who defeated the mighty All Blacks in 1979 at Thormond Park - ranked as a classic and still the only time an Irish team have beaten the Kiwis. Ireland would then enjoy their first Triple Crown success for thirty-three years in 1982 with Ward jostling with the other great Irish fly-half, Ollie Campbell, to lead the team. Ward was a mercurial talent. Much like the maligned Danny Cipriani today, his self-belief and unique way of playing the game he wanted his team to, marked him out as a rare talent. In the days of limited internationals, and few far-flung tours, he would only amass nineteen caps for his country, as well as single a tour of South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 1980. Although the Lions lost the series 1-4, Ward would set the record for a Lion, scoring 18 points in a Test, which still stands today.
He will now tell his story, of the triumphs and disappointments, as well as the great friendships he made, and greatest matches he played in. He will equally be forthright in what he thinks of the game today, and how Ireland will fair in the Rugby World Cup and beyond to the Six Nations in 2016. For any fan of Irish rugby, at whatever level you play, this is an elegiac memoir to cherish.
augured well for the game with all-conquering Wales a fortnight later. The Welsh were going for their third Triple Crown in a row. This meant another very difficult game in prospect despite the fact we had home advantage. I recall a torturous moment the night before the game. Both sides were staying in the Shelbourne Hotel, which is a practice that has changed since then as the last thing you want is to be bumping into the opposition, or their supporters, in the front lobby. For that reason I
Ennis Road, nobody was as wet from head to toe as T.J. Kiernan. I can still see him with a bucket of water in one hand and an oar in the other. He larked around with the youngest members of the side, and helped organise the whole day with ammunition and artillery: buckets, hoses, the whole shebang. But something happened that afternoon. It may have seemed such a simple and unexciting outing, bordering on lunacy, but it bonded us all into a tight group. We were like blood brothers as we built up
Clive Woodward and Paul Dodge we decided we would have an Ireland versus England golf classic. It was as much to banish the memories of the previous day’s defeat as anything. When we arrived a large group of black youngsters surrounded us shouting, ‘Masta, Masta’ in their quest to become our caddies for the day. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was never anybody’s ‘Master’. I resented it even if it was standard practice and compulsory dialogue in the apartheid country. I took two young
about. Something about my opinion or quote on something or other. Then he started going on about ‘an article’ and the word ‘gay’, and I became even more confused. I genuinely thought for a few brief moments that this was a prank call and that the joke and jokester would be revealed. Was it an early April Fool’s joke? Who is this? What is the angle on this joke? I am not familiar with it. All these things and more were going through my mind on a speeding train. Jim was clearly intrigued by my
Irish forward as there has ever been. Great attitude to the game and born a winner. In that respect you could liken him to Roy Keane in soccer. Woody was a complete all-rounder and while accustomed to being at the bottom of a ruck, he could just as easily be found on the left wing. He had a remarkable ability to read the game and to appear in the most unlikely places on the back of that extra rugby sense. There were some who criticised him for this adventurous streak, but that is nonsense. Not