The latest Brooke off the rugby production line is qualified for England and has just signed his first contract
As Zinzan Brooke prepares for the 25th anniversary of the most remarkable drop goal ever scored at a Rugby World Cup, the legendary New Zealand No8 finally has some good news for the England team he helped thrash 45-29 with Jonah Lomu grabbing four tries in Cape Town.
That semi-final defeat on June 18, 1995 was a crushing blow for England and the fact Brooke kicked a 45m right foot drop goal from close to the touchline only increased the discomfort being felt by the players who had repeatedly failed to stop the rampaging Lomu.
While it may not redress the balance, Brooke has revealed that Lucas, the eldest of his six children, has signed a two-year academy contract with Gallagher Premiership London Irish and he is fully England qualified with the 18-year-old having already made his mark as a member of the successful Wellington College first XV. “Lucas has signed a two-year contract with London Irish and has gone there with four or five of his mates from Wellington College,” explained Brooke who has lived in England for 23 years.
“Lucas was born here in England and doesn’t know New Zealand at all. My grand-parents were English and my wife’s parents are English and a lot of people have asked me what would I do. This is home and if the kids get the opportunity to play for England that is their choice. It’s a big call but why would you stop your kid just because it’s England – it’s his call.
“The official date for Lucas to start at Irish was mid-July but it may not be until August because of the current situation and he is chomping at the bit. Lucas plays back row and also hooker because I said to him when I was coaching him at Windsor RFC from the age of five to when he went to Wellington, to have this up your sleeve because I don’t know how tall and big you are going to be. I told him not to wipe out the idea of hooker and he was like “ hooker?” and I said that he should look at the modern day hooker as another loose forward with all the skills. He has nice passing so he just needed to work on throwing the ball into the line out so he hooks as well.”
Zinzan and brother Robin Brooke played a record 39 tests together with the All Blacks giving the family a special place in New Zealand rugby folklore while Marty, their other sibling, played for Auckland and Southland.
“Robin’s children are water polo players and swimmers and our parents didn’t push us at anything and we just took up sports:” added Brooke “You find your own pathway and I was quite handy at badminton and I loved playing cricket. Glaringly obvious, rugby was the one I chose through the age groups and then made the Rugby World Cup squad in 1987.
“I try not to mention the Brooke name (in terms of rugby) because I don’t want to put any pressure on Lucas. I told him not to feel any pressure because I played and that he should do his best, cut his own cloth and not worry about anything. I told him if he wants to go all the way then it is a hard journey but when you are on a good run it is very enjoyable. I love watching him.”
Brooke, 55, made a try-scoring debut for New Zealand against Argentina in the 1987 World Cup and collected a winners’ medal which he gave to his parents. They also have the medal he collected after losing to South Africa in the 1995 final in Johannesburg made famous by the iconic picture of President Nelson Mandela handing over the trophy to Springbok captain Francois Pienaar with both men wearing green No6 jerseys.
In a special interview for RugbyPass Ed Griffiths, the former SA RFU chief executive, maintains that the sickness that affected a number of the All Blacks before and during the final was to food poisoning from seafood not the actions of an alleged waitress called Suzie who it was claimed had intentionally made the opposition ill. Brooke denies the players had all been eating seafood and revealed there were other problems to deal with including having car alarms going off throughout the night after the All Blacks had been given rooms right next to the hotel car park.
Brooke said: ”I didn’t eat a load of seafood before the final and I think it was the Thursday lunch that was the problem after training. I was ill but it wasn’t prawns and crayfish and there were more than five or six who were sick. South Africa were a good side and politically it probably happened for the right reasons. Normally at the hotel we didn’t have rooms near the car park and the car alarms were going off on the hour for three hours during the night – it was nuts. We were put I rooms right next to the car park!
“That was a bloody good All Blacks team but it wasn’t to be on that day.”
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