The first, and still to this day one of the most memorable, was Michael Jones’ try for New Zealand against Italy in the 1987 tournament’s opening match.
That historic moment has now been immortalized, captured in bronze. A statue of Jones diving to score the first ever try by a player in a World Cup will be in place to welcome fans arriving into Eden Park later this year.
“Well it only seems like yesterday to be true. It was probably one of the greatest moments of my rugby life and probably of my whole life,” said Jones, who has been the Volunteer Ambassador for the 2011 showpiece.
“To have been first selected for the All Blacks as a young 22-year-old back in 1987, it was the first World Cup, it was in New Zealand in front of our own people and then to go and score in that match against Italy, obviously very special and I’ll always be eternally grateful that I was in the right spot at the right time.”
The artist responsible for the lifelike depiction is Natalie Stamilla and she recently took pleasure in presenting the sculpture to Jones himself.
“It’s pretty freaky, scary to see how well she has done it,” said Jones. “I’m just in awe at her skill and expertise and her ability to make it look so real and capture that moment right down to the tape on the finger.
“You can almost see the sweat on the brow and even getting the detail of the ball and everything else. I think that it is very, very special and just really admire what Natalie has done.”
Epitome of NZ sport
“I think he (Jones) is a great person to be displaying in this way,” Stamilla said.
“He is everything we want to be - he is humble and he has achieved so much and I think he is just a great person to be honouring and respecting in this fashion because he is the epitome of what we like to regard ourselves as, as New Zealand sports people.
“I think it came down to about 1,000 hours work from everyone involved. But then of course from there we’ve got to do all the casting which is another long process so it’s really something I’ve been working on since the beginning of 2009. So it’s a good two-and-a-half year project.”
When finished, as well as welcoming fans into the refurbished Eden Park Stadium, the sculpture will act as a reminder of former glory, which Jones hopes can also inspire the current All Blacks.
“What we experienced back in ‘87 in terms of the whole country behind us was essentially what took us all the way at the end of the day,” he said.
“Yes we had a great team, we had some of the best rugby players in the world at the time playing the best rugby of their careers, so the formula was right to win, but ultimately I think it was the people, the four million people behind us and I certainly hope that will be the case at this World Cup.”
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