Published: 30 November -0001
ThePapare.com was indeed privileged to catch up with legendary All black John Kirwan who is in Sri Lanka as coach of the Japanese rugby team which will be playing Sri Lanka on Saturday.
Kirwan who was a part of the 1987 world cupwinning squad, was kind enough to spare hisvaluable time with ThePapare who requested anexclusive with him on behalf of all Sri Lankan fans. JK as he is fondly addressed was in the midst of a coaching session for a select number of club players at the CH & FC grounds at the time.
JK who was a wing-three-quarter appeared in 63tests scoring 35 tries for the All Blacks. He was alsoone of the highest try scorers in him time. Kirwanplayed a major role in the All Blacks’ 23 testunbeaten run from 1987–1990, scoring 10 tries in five tests against Wales and Australia during 1988.After retirement the celebrated winger went on tocoaching the Italian national side in 2002, where under his guidance recorded historic victories over Wales in 2003 and Scotland in 2004.At the start of 2007 he took over coaching the Japanese side and has propelled them to become the toast of Asian rugby.Though we no doubt had a 100 questions to ask him,
ThePapare (TP): How did you get involved in rugby?
John Kirwan (JK): “Like every New Zealand kid when I was young I wanted to be an all black, so I followed that dream and played for school, played for my club and then was lucky enough to wear the black jersey at the age of 18.”
TP: What are the lessons and benefits you gained through rugby?
JK: “People ask me this question often. Rugby is just like life, you have to go forward and never go backwards.Sometimes you may fall over and you need the people around you to help you out, just like in a ruck. The greatest thing about rugby is that I have made friends all over the world and that is the big rugby community, if you play rugby anywhere in the world you are treated like family among rugby communities worldwide. So to me rugby is like Karma, if you give everything to the game it will give you loads back.
TP: This is a question that has to be asked, how did it feel when you won the first ever world cup?
JK: Fantastic!! My first dream was to be an all black so to put that Jersey on was a dream come true. And thereafter to win the world cup in New Zealand in front of my friends and family was the ultimate dream come true.
TP: What are the important qualities in a player that you would look for as a coach?
JK: Firstly you must believe in yourself. You have to honor your dream. Work hard at school, work hard in training. Don’t be afraid to dream. Dreams are free and no one can take them away from you. I always dreamt of being an all black and of being a national level coach and never gave up until those dreams came true.
TP: What advice would you give an up and coming coach or player who is looking for a career in coaching?
JK: Remember it’s always about the player and not about the coach. It is about always making your players better. So I always try to make a player the best he can be. As a coach you have to motivate him and manage him and correct him and make sure you do not over coach your players. If I can do all that I’m doing my job.
TP: What do you think about Sri Lanka?
JK: I love the place. I’ve always wanted to visit and it is now my first time so I don’t know much about Sri Lanka. But back in 1989 the Sri Lanka cricket team was down in New Zealand for a match and I walked by them in the nets and they all knew me and knew about Rugby. I’ve always had a soft spot for Sri Lanka. Rugby is a popular sport here and I hope they get the success they deserve.
TP: What can Sri Lankan Coaches do to lift the standard of rugby in the country?
JK: You guys need to focus on getting a system in place for your kids. Make sure you stress on the fundamentals with an emphasis on FUN! Teach them to enjoy the game rather than play for the sake of it. I think rugby is not about being professional but its more about a life style. Work hard, get better and focus on winning an Olympic medal in sevens and winning the Asian cup.
Reluctantly we had to end the interview and allow him to get on with his coaching. ThePapare.com was honoured to have been in such great company.
John Kirwan will be conducting a session on training the trainer on the 22nd of May 2011 where all top levels Sri Lankan rugby coaches will be attending.
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