Any time you mention “Rugby World Cup proposals” there’s a double-meaning only champion former Wallaby Daniel Herbert understands.
Herbert is delighted that Australia is pushing so strongly and persuasively to host the Rugby World Cup 2027 as a game-changer for rugby in this country.
With his home city of Brisbane winning hosting rights for the 2032 Olympics, Herbert is also excited by the bigger picture it can paint for the nation.
“Winning the bid for the 2027 World Cup would be massive for the game of rugby in Australia and the Pacific,” Herbert said.
“We’ve got the opportunity to do something quite similar to that wonderful time when we hosted the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Lions series in 2001 and a home Rugby World Cup in 2003.
“This will be the sporting epicentre of the world for several years.”
Herbert has experienced the World Cup from every angle. He was just out of school at 17 when he was a pure fan in Ireland, Wales and England for the winning 1991 tournament when elder brother Anthony was a Wallaby.
He played in South Africa at the 1995 World Cup and was a frontline weapon at outside centre for the 1999 World Cup triumph.
He was proud of the full stadiums across Australia in 2003 and is now a Rugby Australia Board member actively working towards a 2027 hosting.
In 1999, the Wallabies were based at the Portmanock Hotel and Golf Links outside Dublin for their most important pool game against Ireland.
The Irish made the Wallabies feel right at home. One local even penned a limerick about the powerful centre that went something like this.
“There was a young Wallaby named Herbert, who made a tackle that hurt a bit....”
Herbert had his Irish sweetheart Serena in town, the Wallabies were enjoying themselves and, still, Herbert was restless.
“I just couldn’t sleep going into that Irish match. So, two nights before the Test, it just came into my head, ‘I’m going to propose’,” Herbert explained.
“I had no thought of it when I flew over from Australia but I was thinking 'I’m playing Ireland in two days, I’ve got to sleep'.”
It was an extraordinary leap and a good deal more exciting as team news than a routine hamstring twinge a few days out from a key Test match.
Herbert got down on bended knee on a beach by the Irish Sea and proposed with an Irish claddagh ring set with Serena’s emerald birthstone.
The pair were engaged. Herbert got to sleep. The Wallabies thumped Ireland 23-3 in front of nearly 50,000 fans at Lansdowne Road and the rest is history. The couple now have two kids.
Herbert never really pictured himself as a Wallaby at 17 and the fuse that was lit by the excitement of his first trip overseas in 1991 was subliminal.
“I never thought I had a chance to do it so at that stage it wasn’t a dream. I just enjoyed being there, watching the Wallabies win the final and sneaking into a few bars,” he said with a smile.
“Only when I got to play some under-age rep footy a year or so later could I start to see that maybe I could aspire to the World Cup as a player.”
Playing at a home World Cup eluded Herbert but that occasion would be magnetic for a whole era of players.
“It would be massive for the players. It would be massive for the fans. It would be huge for the country as well as the third biggest sporting event in the world,” Herbert said.
“Millions of eyeballs from around the world will be on Australia and, potentially, hundreds of thousands of visitors would come to the tournament.
“That boost for tourism generalIy would benefit the whole country.
“I really think Australia’s preparedness regarding stadiums is a major asset to the bid.
“A big part of these big events now is not to have white elephant legacies.
“Australia has some great stadiums already plus a track record of hosting and running major events.
"I really feel what Australia offers puts us in a good position to win the bid.”