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For a full 30 seconds, prop master Ewen McKenzie was the hero of the Wallabies’ first World Cup Finals triumph in 1991.
The British commentary team identified the burly prop master as Australia’s try-scorer and the program followed the Randwick star on camera, complete with an on-screen name graphic.
Thanks to thousands of votes from our readers, The Roar ranks down the Wallabies’ greatest World Cup XV ever from 15th to 1st place.
Unfortunately, in even quicker time, he was the unsung chump of the Wallabies again. Base partner Tony Daly was officially awarded the team’s individual try at Twickenham when he and McKenzie smashed the ball from a 5-yard line and fell to the ground.
McKenzie helped Daly by dragging him and the ball down the tryline. It’s a high point in the Front Row Hall of Fame.
McKenzie and Daly always joke about scoring two points each (since it was the days of the four-point try).
That’s pretty much the life of a top Test prop… you can’t do without them, but they rarely get any credit. It’s only when something goes wrong in the Scrum period that the world pays attention.
As the rock of the scrum, McKenzie was an integral part of World Championship success in 1991.
In fact, McKenzie had worked with prostitutes Phil Kearns and Daly in all 16 Tests over the course of the finale. They had previously played together in NSW teams and in the McKenzie-Daly combination at U21 level. That value of togetherness and intimacy in the trenches seems all too carelessly undervalued these days.
They were a tight unit and on the eve of the 1991 semi-final win over the All Blacks, McKenzie, Kearns, Daly and Rod McCall caught a few smart pints on the eve of the game.
“Those were the old days, and no one knew better,” McKenzie later said. “I remember turning around and looking to the right and there was Grizz Wyllie, the All Blacks coach, standing there thinking, ‘Here are the Aussie tight-forward boozers, we should be right in this semi-final .'”
“In the end we played pretty well.”
The fact that the Wallabies had a rock-solid backdrop as the foundation for 1991’s success only really becomes apparent when you consider what it’s like without such a character.
Take Stirling Mortlock’s World Cup Wallabies 2007 in France. They were dismantled in the scrum by England and it was goodbye in the quarter-finals in Marseille.
McKenzie won the award for tighthead in the the roar‘s Greatest Wallabies RWC XV. With Andrew Blades, another silent but invaluable performer in the same position for the 1999 World Champion, it would always have been a close affair.
McKenzie was good company, although not the overly talkative type compared to Daly’s large personality and Kearns’ extreme confidence.
The two props shared a love of food and quantity at the buffet. And of course good crowd.
At the Randwick Club, Kearns quickly formed a friendship with young McKenzie, whose tastes leaned more toward the Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC end of the music spectrum.
He had landed in Randwick from Melbourne because his urban planning studies were taking him to Sydney. Right: It wasn’t made out of the stereotypical granite of a prop because there was room for serious information.
McKenzie had agility and ball skills to match his scrum craft at a body weight of over 250 pounds.
As if to prove their status as one of the Wallabies’ frontline players, McKenzie, Daly and Kearns expanded their job descriptions and all scored tries in a 1990 Test match over the USA at Ballymore.
McKenzie started in five of the six Tests at the 1991 World Cup and made it to a second World Cup in South Africa four years later.
He contested 51 Tests, 50 of them as a starter, as Australia’s pre-eminent tighthead prop in one of the Wallabies’ most successful eras.
During this long tenure, he scored two attempts at gold. The Wallabies and McKenzie will always be proud that it was two and a half.
He managed the rare double of both playing for and coaching the Wallabies as he rose through 22 Tests in that role during the 2013/14 season.
Ewen McKenzie is your #3 pick for The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV, Backed by ASICS, the official supplier of performance apparel and footwear to the Wallabies. Link won with 42% of the vote, followed by Sekope Kepu and Taniela Tupou. Check back tomorrow to find out who was selected for 2nd place.
The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/09/05/greatest-xv-smart-cookie-who-loved-the-buffet-a-sly-pint-and-trench-warfare/ Smart biscuit who loved the buffet, a smart pint, and infighting