Former Australia international Stephen Larkham has been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame at a special ceremony held in Sydney on the eve of Australia’s Bledisloe Cup opener with New Zealand.
A Rugby World Cup winner in 1999, Larkham amassed 102 caps, scoring 25 tries in a tally of 135 test points throughout his international playing career before retiring from international rugby after Rugby World Cup 2007 in France.
The ceremony, attended by Chairman of the Hall of Fame panel John Eales and fellow team members from the Australian side who historically won the Bledisloe Cup 3-0 in 1998, celebrated Larkham’s decorated career and outstanding contribution to rugby.
Hall of Fame inductee George Gregan, who played alongside Larkham in a half-back partnership that spanned 73 tests and was central to Australia’s successful reign at the time, had the honour of presenting the prestigious accolade to his former team-mate.
“The older you get and further away from playing rugby, the more sentimental you feel,” said Larkham
“It’s a nice accolade and something I’m very proud of but I’m very conscious it’s a team sport and I wouldn’t have had any of the success I had without the players around me.
“It was a special period for Australian rugby and I feel very lucky to have been playing when I did.”
Eales said: “It really was a privilege to play with Steve. He had a wonderful confidence and composure every time he pulled on the jersey of his club, state or country. Many of us were the beneficiary of that.”
Gregan said: “It was a real pleasure and a lot of fun playing with Stevie for so many years at both the international and provincial level. I had the best seat in the house in terms of his incredible skills. He was a match-winner but more importantly an incredible team member who cared for his players. It was a real honour making the presentation to welcome him into the Rugby Hall of Fame, it was a great occasion.”
Alongside Larkham, former legends of the game Liza Burgess (Wales), Ronan O’Gara (Ireland), Pierre Villepreux (France) and Bryan Williams (New Zealand) will also be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2018.
O’Gara, Villepreux, Williams and Burgess will attend a prestigious event, which will celebrate their careers and contributions to the game, at the state-of-the-art physical home of the Hall of Fame in Rugby, England on 12 September.
The five latest inductees bring the total in the Hall of Fame to 142 since it began in 2006.
World Rugby Hall of Fame 2018 inductees:
- Stephen Larkham (Australia), Inductee No.138
- Ronan O’Gara (Ireland), Inductee No.139
- Pierre Villepreux (France), Inductee No.140
- Bryan Williams (New Zealand), Inductee No.14
- Liza Burgess (Wales), Inductee No.142
WORLD RUGBY HALL OF FAME – INDUCTEE NO.138 – STEPHEN LARKHAM (AUSTRALIA)
Born: 29 May, 1974 in Canberra, Australia
Stephen Larkham started his international career at full-back but soon developed into one of the most creative fly-halves in world rugby.
Seventy-three of his 102 tests saw him playing alongside George Gregan, a half-back partnership that came to embody the success of Australia and the Brumbies during their hey-day. Such is their legacy, the east stand at the Canberra Stadium is named after them.
Possessing a ghosting break and superb distribution skills, Larkham was the conduit that made the Wallabies’ backline so effective, creating time and space for those around him to exploit. That said, he was still a threat in his own right, scoring 25 tries in a tally of 135 test points.
Larkham appeared at three Rugby World Cups and was an integral part of the champion team of 1999. His monster, 48-metre drop goal to defeat defending champions South Africa in the semi-final was one of the defining moments of the tournament. Larkham also helped Australia into the 2003 final before retiring from international rugby after RWC 2007 in France.
He went on to coach the Brumbies for three years, with whom he’d won two Super Rugby titles as a player in 2001 and 2004, before taking on the attack and backs coach role with the Wallabies under Michael Cheika.
WORLD RUGBY HALL OF FAME – INDUCTEE NO.139 – RONAN O’GARA (IRELAND)
Born: 7 May, 1977 in San Diego, USA
One of the best goal-kickers and game-controlling fly-halves of his era, Ronan O’Gara is still Ireland’s leading point scorer and the top point scorer in the history of the European Cup by some distance.
Across his 128 tests for Ireland O’Gara accrued 1,083 points in a career spanning 13 years from 2000-13. O’Gara went to three Rugby World Cups – 2003, 2007 and 2011 – and also toured with the British and Irish Lions on three occasions in 2001, 2005, 2009.
Perhaps his most notable moment in a green jersey was the last-minute drop goal which brought Ireland a 17-15 win over Wales and the 2009 Six Nations Grand Slam – Ireland’s first for 61 years. When he finally called time on his Irish career he was the sixth most-capped player in international rugby.
Despite being born in California, O’Gara was a Cork man through and through, making his Munster debut in 1997 and then helping the province to Heineken Cup wins in 2006 and 2008.
A superb reader of the game, a move into coaching was the natural course of action for O’Gara once he finally hung up his boots. After four years as an assistant coach at Racing 92, he left Paris at the end of 2017 to take on a similar role with the Crusaders in New Zealand.
WORLD RUGBY HALL OF FAME – INDUCTEE NO.140 – PIERRE VILLEPREUX (FRANCE)
Born: 5 July, 1943 in Pompadour, France
Pierre Villepreux was an elegant, goal-kicking full-back who played for Toulouse and, between 1967 and 1972, for France, scoring 166 points in his 34 tests, most memorably helping Les Bleus overwhelm England 35-13 at Colombes in 1970.
However, it was as an innovative, free-thinking coach that Villepreux was revered throughout the rugby world. He took as his coaching creed “flexibility and adaptability, not organisation” and espoused the traditional open French style of play.
In 1985 he coached Toulouse to their first national championship in 38 years and added two more titles in his time with the club, while working alongside Jean-Claude Skrela. That partnership was renewed when, after a disappointing showing at Rugby World Cup 1995, Skrela replaced Pierre Berbizier as France head coach and eventually turned to his former team-mate, ending Villepreux’s time overseas where his influence was felt in Italy, as head coach of the national team, Wales and England.
Adopting Villepreux’s brand of ‘total rugby’, a revitalised France won back-to-back Five Nations titles in 1997 and 1998 and then reached the final of RWC 1999, having seen off New Zealand in one of the competition’s all-time classic semi-finals.
At the end of the tournament, Villepreux was appointed as the FFR’s technical director. He later went on to work for the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) as the regional development manager for Europe.
WORLD RUGBY HALL OF FAME – INDUCTEE NO.141 – BRYAN WILLIAMS (NEW ZEALAND)
Born: 3 October, 1950 in Auckland, New Zealand
Knighted for his services to rugby in 2018, the 10th New Zealander to be so bestowed, Bryan Williams is widely considered to be one of his country’s greatest-ever players.
Born in Auckland but of Samoan descent, Williams was the first Polynesian player to represent the All Blacks, well over two decades before Jonah Lomu and company left their indelible mark on the game.
Built like a forward but with also blessed with plenty of pace, the physically imposing winger was a nightmare to defend against, as the Springboks found out in 1970. Chosen to tour apartheid South Africa as “an honorary white”, Williams scored 14 tries in 13 appearances.
By the time he retired after New Zealand’s 1978 grand slam tour of the UK and Ireland, Williams had 66 tries to his name from 113 matches, 38 of them tests.
Williams was also a four-time winner of the Ranfurly Shield with Auckland as well as helping his province to their maiden NPC first division title triumph in 1982.
A lawyer by trade, Williams won further honours with Ponsonby and Auckland as a coach and masterminded Samoa’s famous triumph over Wales at Rugby World Cup 1999 before teaming up with Graham Mourie at the Hurricanes.
Williams was appointed President of the New Zealand Rugby Union in 2011.
WORLD RUGBY HALL OF FAME – INDUCTEE NO.142 – LIZA BURGESS (WALES)
Born: 24 March, 1964 in Newport, Gwent, South Wales.
Liza Burgess has been at the forefront of Welsh women’s – and international rugby – for nearly three decades. During an illustrious playing career, ‘Bird’, as she is known, played in Wales’ very first international against England in 1987 where she led the side from number eight.
Twenty years later and with 93 caps to her name, including six appearances for Great Britain prior to the development of the Welsh national side, she finished her test career on the concluding day of the Women’s Six Nations in 2007.
Burgess captained Wales on 62 occasions, participated in six Women’s Rugby World Cups – four as a player and two as assistant coach – and was assistant coach for the inaugural Barbarians women’s team in 2017.
Burgess first played rugby at Loughborough University in 1983 where she was fortunate to be coached by fellow World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Jim Greenwood, who was also her Great Britain coach.
On graduating, she joined Wasps before going on to enjoy a hugely successful 10-year spell at Saracens, the club she helped to form. An inspirational leader, Burgess led the side to the very first treble recorded in the women’s domestic game (League and Cup in 15s and the National Sevens).
Since hanging up her boots, Burgess has become forwards coach to Wales women, head coach of the national women’s U20s and an assistant coach at the Gloucestershire-based Hartpury club, while still holding down a job as assistant headteacher at Downend School in