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Legends of the Game: David Campese

The great yet outspoken Australian

Posted Jun 16, 2011 by Legends

Campese after England won the World Cup

In a career that spanned 14 years, Australian David Campese made 101 Test appearances for the Wallabies, scoring 64 tries, and earning the appreciation of players and fans from around the world for his performances on the field.

‘Campo’ began his career at his local side, Queanbeyan Whites, and his skills were recognised almost immediately by Bob Dwyer, who was coach of the Australia side at the time. He was selected to play for the Australia Under 21 side against New Zealand Colts in 1992, his first taste of international rugby. His impressive performance lead to a call-up to the full side for a tour to New Zealand, where he was handed his debut at the age of just 19.

He scored a try on his debut in a defeat, but impressed selectors and the opposition enough to show that he could play at international level.  This was until a poor performance with the boot against New Zealand in the Bedisloe Cup, he was heavily criticised for his kicking style after missing all four of his attempts at goal during the defeat.

Campese was selected for the tour of Britain in 1994, and was in the Grand Slam winning side. He was also instrumental in winning back the Bedisloe Cup in 1986, the first time Australia had won the trophy in 37 years.

Australia were beaten by France in the semi finals of the 1987 World Cup, and missed the injured Campese, who had been in tremendous form throughout the tournament.

The media had another chance to knock a top player off their pedestal, as they seem to do so well, when Campese played a loose pass to Greg Martin against the British Lions in 1989, which allowed the Lions to steal the ball and touch down to win the match. The media went to town on Campese at that point, claiming he was just a maverick player, who was wonderful to watch, but prone to some disastrous errors. But who isn’t? There have been plenty of other players that have had the odd lapse.

Following on from the unwarranted criticism, Campese bounced back by taking the man of the tournament award at the 1991 World Cup, scoring six tries, and then won the World Player of the Year award. I think that answers the critics.

Campese was a controversial character, who regularly spoke his mind about opposition teams and players, and was forced to eat his words in 2003 after England won the World Cup. Campo claimed that England had a less than adventurous style of play before the tournament. After England beat the Wallabies in the final, Campese walked through Oxford Street in London with a placard made by Ladbrokes the bookmakers, with “the best team won” written on it.

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