Once were All Blacks: Former NZ teammates Kirwan and Crowley prepare for World Cup tussle
NAPIER, New Zealand - John Kirwan remembers Kieran Crowley only too well — Crowley used to wake him up at the crack of dawn every day when they were roommates in the New Zealand squad back in the 1980s.
On Tuesday, they square up on the sidelines at the Rugby World Cup: Kirwan as coach of Japan, Crowley with Canada.
They go back years, winning the inaugural World Cup together in 1987.
Kirwan jinked down the wing, Crowley flew at fullback, and they hailed from vastly different backgrounds: Kirwan from Auckland, and Crowley — four years his senior — from the Taranaki region.
"He (Kirwan) was a city slicker who liked to sleep and didn't know what the real world was like at that stage," Crowley told The Associated Press at the team's hotel on Monday.
Kirwan poked fun at Crowley, too.
"He's a good guy, great guy ... dry humour. Him and I used to room a lot together, except he was a farmer and he used to get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, used to milking (cows)," Kirwan said on Monday. "I used to say 'I'm from the city, I don't get up until a while later.'"
Kirwan, who played in 63 tests for the All Blacks, is praying Crowley doesn't prank-call him in the early hours of Tuesday.
"I hope not. I'm not missing being his roommate. I look forward to catching up with him after the game," the 46-year-old Kirwan said. "I guess he's not a farmer any more, so he probably doesn't go to bed so early and get up too early."
Despite their different lifestyles, they had great complicity on the rugby field.
"We had great fun, with him being a fullback and me being a winger," Kirwan said. "But he was a little bit stressed out in the early (19)80s because he went from names of his cows to (shirt) numbers, so that was a bit stressful for him.
"The only positive was he would make me a cup of tea."
Strangely, the 50-year-old Crowley has no recollection whatsoever of putting the kettle on for Kirwan.
"I can't remember that," he said, laughing. "If he says so it's probably true."
Crowley played 19 times for the All Blacks from 1983-91, scoring 105 points, and he sometimes pines for that era.
"It was outstanding. People quite often say you've missed out on (the professional era), but I wouldn't change it for anything," he said, "The friends you made, the experiences you had, and the mates you've got through those experiences.
"You wouldn't trade that for anything," he continued. "It was a dream of every kid in New Zealand, (and when) you finally get there, and you're experiencing the dream, it's unbelievable."