Campese made his debut for the Wallabies on the 1982 Australia rugby union tour of New Zealand. In 1983, he equaled the then record for most tries in a Test match for Australia against the USA, scoring four tries. Campese was a member of the Eighth Wallabies for the 1984 Australia rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland that won rugby union's "grand slam", the first Australian side to defeat all four home nations, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, on a tour. Campese was a member of the Wallabies on the 1986 Australia rugby union tour of New Zealand that beat the All Blacks 2-1, one of five international teams and second Australian team to win a Test series in New Zealand. Campese was a member of the Wallabies for the 1987 Rugby World Cup, during which he broke the then world record for most tries scored by an international rugby player in the semi-final against France. During the 1988 Australia rugby union tour of England, Scotland and Italy, Campese received a standing ovation from the crowd and applause from his teammates after scoring a try for Australia against the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park. Campese was a member of the Wallabies that won the 1991 Rugby World Cup, during which he was the tournament's equal leading try scorer with six, and acclaimed 'player of the tournament'.
He is famous for his "goose-step" — a hitch-kick motion which left opponents stumbling to try to tackle him.
David Campese was born on 21 October 1962, in Queanbeyan, New South Wales to Gianantonio and Joan Campese. His older brother Mario was born in 1959. Campese has two sisters, Lisa and Corrina. Lisa was born in 1964 and Corrina was born in 1965. In 1966 his family moved back to Montecchio Precalcino in northern Italy for eighteen months before moving back to Australia and settling in Queanbeyan, New South Wales.
Campese attended his local public school and high school and played rugby league from the ages of eight to sixteen for the Queanbeyan Blues. At age 16 he gave up all forms of rugby to play golf. In 1978 he won the ACT-Monaro Schoolboys golf title.
David Campese played his first game of rugby union for the Queanbeyan Whites in 1979 in fourth grade. During 1980 he was promoted to first grade. After two years of first-grade rugby, in 1981 Campese was promoted to the Australian under-21 squad to tour New Zealand that was beaten 37-7. Shortly after, Campese was selected in a 'trial match' prior to the 1981–82 Australia rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland, but did not achieve national selection.
In 1982 the Scottish Test side toured Australia for a two-Test series. Prior to both Tests, David Campese was a standout performer at fullback playing for the Australian under 21s side.
Then Australian coach Bob Dwyer's first exposure to Campese was at an Australian under 21s game against Fiji. Dwyer wrote in his autobiography The Winning Way that, "A few months earlier Campese had played for the Australian under-21s against the Fijian under-21s in a curtain-raiser to the first Test against Scotland in Brisbane, and he had cut the Fijian defence to shreds. I asked at once who he was and was told he was a rising star in the Canberra competition. Then I saw him play a second time in the curtain-raiser to the second Test, and again he was brilliant in attack."
In the tribute book David Campese former Australian coach Alan Jones wrote that:
I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1982 when this unknown Canberra teenage fullback was playing in what was regarded as something of a trial, a curtain raiser to a Test against a New Zealand Under 21 side, though rarely did anyone from such a trial graduate immediately to much else. People were wandering into the ground and those who were there gave little attention to what was happening on the paddock. But on this day, and not for the first time, a remarkably gifted and fleet of foot Canberra teenager swept into the backline, received the ball at the end of a pass, chip-kicked, accelerated, gathered and scored.
In the same tribute book, Sir Nicholas Shehadie wrote in the forward that, "David Campese first made the Australian rugby fraternity stand up and take notice when he played fullback...in an early fixture to an international at the Sydney Cricket Ground in July, 1982. He continuously brought the massive crowd to its feet with his unorthodox style and free running. From that day, David Campese stamped his mark on the game and within weeks he had been elevated to the Australian team."
In Running Rugby former Australian rugby player Mark Ella wrote of Campese's performance for the Australian Under 21s against New Zealand, which occurred prior to Australia's second Test against Scotland in 1982:
Like a lot of other people, I first became aware that a promising young player named David Campese had arrived on the scene when he appeared in a curtain-raiser to a Test against Scotland at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1982. Campese was playing for the Australian under 21s against the New Zealand under 21s. I was a reserve that day for the Test, so I was in the dressing-room and did not watch the curtain-raiser myself, but I soon came to hear about it. Although Australia won the Test against Scotland handsomely, all the talk after the match was about the performance in the curtain-raiser by the fullback from Canberra. Everyone who watched Campese that day had been astonished by his ability.
On the night of Australia's second Test against Scotland in 1982, ten Australian rugby players announced that for personal and business reasons they would not be available for the 1982 Australian tour to New Zealand, including Australia's premier winger Brendan Moon. Following this announcement, David Campese was selected for the 1982 Australia rugby union tour of New Zealand.
In The Winning Way then Australian coach Bob Dwyer wrote, "I am not sure whether he [Campese] would have made the tour if Brendan Moon and the others had not pulled out, but even if he had he would have been a borderline choice and might have remained on the fringe of the team for much of the tour. Instead, he occupied centre-stage and performed brilliantly."
Following the Wallabies first tour match against Taranaki in New Plymouth, David Campese made his representative debut for the Wallabies against Manawatu in Palmerston North. Rugby journalist Bret Harris in Ella, Ella, Ella reports that, "An electrifying runner, he showed promise of greater things to come when he left the defence lurching into space to score a brilliant, solo try." Campese also kicked three goals from five attempts in the Wallabies 26-10 win. Campese played in the following game against Hawke's Bay at Napier and, two matches later, was chosen for his first Test.
In The Winning Way Dwyer writes that, "I certainly did not mark him down as someone liable to break into the Test side. Although [Brendan] Moon had withdrawn, two other wingers of proven ability were going on the New Zealand tour, Peter Grigg and Mick Martin... Campese played in a couple of the early tour matches, and as we approached the first Test a few of the senior players tried to advance his cause by telling me how much they admired him."
Former New Zealand All Blacks wing Stu Wilson writes in the tribute book David Campese that, "When asked by a television reporter if he was looking forward to mark Stu Wilson he replied, 'Stu who?'" Campese responded in the same book by replying that, "The story is true, but Stu misunderstood why I said it. I didn't say it because I was cocky. I said it because I honestly did not know who Stu Wilson was. I was a nineteen-year-old boy from Queanbeyan. My background had been in rugby league, not rugby union."
An account of Campese's Test debut is given by Bob Dwyer in The Winning Way:
"We picked him for the first Test, and on the very first occasion he touched a ball in Test rugby he found himself opposed one-on-one by Stu Wilson, then widely rated the number-one winger in the world, in the middle of Lancaster Park. Campese stood Wilson up and ran around him so easily that he might have been playing Test Rugby for years. He did it once or twice again before the match was over and on one occasion scored a try. I was enthused, and so was the media. They wrote of him in glowing terms next day... I don't believe I have ever lost the sense of wonder at his ability which I felt when I saw him run around Stu Wilson on Lancaster Park."
In Running Rugby Mark Ella writes of Campese's debut that, "Campese played his first Test on that tour. The match was at Christchurch, and I can remember the occasion very clearly. Until that match, Stu Wilson of New Zealand reigned as the world's champion winger, but I think his reign ended that day. Campese turned it on with the goose-step and trumped Wilson completely. We all knew then that someone really special had come on the scene.
In On A Wing and a Prayer, Campese downplayed his success against Wilson, "I beat Stu Wilson, the All Black wing, a few times, on a couple of occasions by employing the goose-step. So much has been made of that fact over the years that it has been blown out of all proportion." He added that, "I remember that in the first half of that Test match at Christchurch, Roger Gould had a kick charged down and I went to pick it up one-handed...and knocked on. In a Test match! Then, in the second half, we got the ball and ran it from our own line. Gould gave me the ball and there was no one in front of me except Allan Hewson, the All Black full-back. I tried to change hands and dropped the ball. Maybe I have always been a bit that way; unpredictable to the end."
However, Campese did score his first try in international rugby from a cross-field kick from Mark Ella late in the game. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that:
"I did score a try, but not until two minutes from the end when we were trailing 23-12. So in the context of that particular match it had little relevance, but I would say it was of lasting value to Australian rugby in the years to come. That is because of the way it was scored. Mark Ella cross-kicked a long ball to me on the left wing. I gathered and touched down wide out. It was probably one of the early demonstrations of the partnership, the understanding between Mark and myself, which was to beat fruit on many, many occasions for Australia, Randwick and finally for Amatori in Milan."
Two moments involving Campese are frequently cited in reports of the second Test against New Zealand at Athletic Park.
Australian outside centre Gary Ella scored a try after Campese handled the ball twice in the movement. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that, "We led at 19-3 half-time, having plundered a gale-force wind in our favour in the first half at Athletic Park, Wellington. After two early Roger Gould penalty goals, I got through and found Mark Ella close by in support. Gould took it on, I backed him up and gave Gary Ella the scoring pass."
In Ella, Ella, Ella rugby journalist Bret Harris documents Gary Ella's try by writing that:
"The Wallabies hopped to a 6-0 lead after 23 minutes of play following two penalty goals from Gould. But Australia burst clear when Campese, spinning like a top, stepped around Stu Wilson to initiate a dazzling attacking sequence. Campese twirled in-field and linked with Mark, who in turn found Gould on the boil. Campese darted around Gould and jigged towards the corner, but he was engulfed by the cover defence. Gary suddenly appeared from nowhere to accept the pass and score."
In 100 Great Rugby Players, former Welsh rugby player Gareth Edwards writes:
"After school rugby and some dashing form for the Australian Under-21 team, the young wing got his first big break with the Wallaby side that visited New Zealand in 1982, forcing his way into all three Tests. In the Second Test, won 19-16 by the tourists, Campese figured in a tremendous try when he burst out of defence and sent Mark Ella away. Somehow the wing stayed on his feet to keep in touch with the attack and support Roger Gould, who had the ball by now, and to send a final scoring pass to Gary Ella. New Zealand Test crowds acclaimed this new, brilliant star."
Before half-time Campese scored what rugby commentator Gordon Bray described as "one of the most stirring support tries in Test match history" and what rugby journalist Spiro Zavos called "one of rugby's greatest tries". Bray writes that, "More than half the Wallaby side handled in the movement, starting with Cox and Mark Ella. Then Gould, Grigg, Gary Ella, Hawker, Lucas and big Steve Williams all combined before Campo scooted over beside the posts. It was a knockout blow on half-time and gave the Australians a match-winning 19-3 lead."
Australia led New Zealand 19-3 at halftime. The full-time score was 19-16.
Campese played a central part in one of the biggest talking points of the third and final Test. In The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby Philip Derriman records that:
Simon Poidevin in For Love Not Money writes that, "At halftime we were leading 15-12 and it could have been 21-12 if a try equal in skill and drama to the Campese try at Wellington hadn't been disallowed for a forward pass." Bob Dwyer in The Winning Way asserts the disallowed try could have cost Australia the Test, writing that, "Towards the end of the first half Steve Williams went over the line at the end of a movement which had begun at the far end of the field, but the referee ruled there had been a forward pass three or four players earlier. That try, if converted, would have taken us to a lead of 18 to 6 and, I think, could have been the winning of the match.
The Wallabies set a scoring record for an Australian rugby union tour of New Zealand by scoring 316 points in 14 matches, including 47 tries. This surpassed the achievement of the 1972 Australian team, which scored 229 in 13 matches. Australian sportswriter Jack Pollard documented that Campese "scored eight tries in nine games, kicked four goals and two penalties for a total of 48 points."
This included a try and three successful goals kicked from five attempts in his debut match against Manawatu, two tries and a conversion (10 points) in the Wallabies's 11th tour game against Bay of Plenty (lost 16-40), and 13 points against North Auckland at Whangarei in the Wallabies final game prior to the third Test of the series (won 16-12), in which Campese scored two tries, a penalty and a conversion, before being named 'man of the match'. Campese was also deprived of a try in the Wallabies' 12th match on tour against Countries when Counties' player Alan Dawson, shoved Campese in the back and away from the ball before he could touch it down. A photograph of Dawson's shove is published in Bob Dwyer's autobiography The Winning Way, in which Dwyer asserts that Dawson "cost Campo the try and the Wallabies the match".
The Australian team made a positive impression on the New Zealand public during the tour and Campese was among those celebrated for his entertaining style of play. New Zealand rugby journalist Terry McLean, in the New Zealand Herald, wrote after the tour that, "It would not be too much to say that this was the most significant Wallaby team ever to tour New Zealand." McLean praised Campese, stating that he "could side-step his way out of a sealed paper bag". All Black winger Stu Wilson later said of Campese that, "He made life hell for me for three tests."
Australia's first Test in 1983 was against the USA in Sydney, which was won 49-3. David Campese scored four tries in Australia's victory over the USA, equaling former Australian backrower Greg Cornelson's record for the most tries in a Test match for an Australian, which he set in the third Test against the All Blacks in 1978. Mark Ella biographer Bret Harris wrote that in this Test, "Campese emerged as the most exciting attacking player in the world..." In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese downplayed his achievement, writing that, "...I don't regard that as a great achievement; American rugby in those days was a long way removed from the New Zealand standard. The tries I had scored in the Tests against the All Blacks at Christchurch and Wellington the previous year made me infinitely more proud."
Then Australian coach Bob Dwyer, in The Winning Way, wrote that, "I had noticed... that the American cover defence was intent on getting across to the winger, which meant it left huge holes inside. I told our players to try putting up a centre kick, which they did with resounding success." Campese set up Andrew Slack for Australia's fourth try in this Test by utilising a centre kick as Slack streamed through the midfield.
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold wrote that, "Campese, moved to fullback early in the second half with Roger Gould limping off injured, triggered the best of Australia's tries after collecting an American kick behind his own goal line. Veering left he launched a counterattack, the ball passed through six pairs of hands, including Campese's for a second touch, before flanker Chris Roche went over."
Australian coach Bob Dwyer praised Campese following the Test by stating that he did some "excellent things".
Campese and Cornelson's record for four tries in an international Test was broken by Chris Latham during the 2003 Rugby World Cup, when Latham scored five tries against Namibia.
In 1983 Campese played three matches against the touring Argentina national rugby union team, including two Test matches. On 20 July 1983 Campese played at fullback for the ACT, scoring two tries, four conversions, and a penalty goal, in a 35-9 victory over the touring Argentinian side. The match was Argentina's second match on tour and the only loss they suffered in a provincial game on tour.
Australia lost the first Test to Argentina 3-18 in Brisbane, after Argentina scored two pushover tries. Prior to the Test Australian coach Bob Dwyer is recorded as saying that, 'It is going to be very difficult for us to get on top of them... However, once that takes place our ability and discipline in the backs is such that I don't see how they can stop us.'
Simon Poidevin recalls in For Love Not Money that, "Bob Dwyer said beforehand that he thought Australia's backs of Vaughan, Ella, Hawker, Slack, Moon, Campese and Gould would be altogether too fast for them. Rival captain Porta simply replied with the warning: 'We shall see who gets to the ball first.'"
Poidevin further records that, "They knew they had the power to kill us in the forwards and that, after they had dominated us in the scrums, our forwards would simply not have the energy left to scrounge for the ball elsewhere... They bled us to death in the scrum with more power and technique than any of our forwards had ever experienced before. Not the All Blacks, the French, or any of the Home Nations has ever shown anything like this."
Rugby journalist Bret Harris in Ella, Ella, Ella wrote that, "Dwyer's tactics relied heavily on the attacking brilliance of Australia's outside backs. He claimed Argentina would not see which way Campese, Moon and Gould went. But Porta employed percentage tactics, keeping the ball in front of the forwards and away from Australia's lethal backs. Australia was under so much pressure from the Argentinian forwards they failed to make use of the meagre possession they managed to win."
The Test also marked the first time David Campese was assigned the goal-kicking duties. Campese scored one from four goal-attempts in this Test.
Australia's scrum was heavily criticised for being outperformed by the Argentine scrum following the first Test.
Following the first Test against Argentina, Australian fullback Roger Gould made himself unavailable due to a leg injury. Australian coach Bob Dwyer sought to replace Gould with Randwick fullback Glen Ella. Dwyer is recorded as saying, "I don't think there is a more devastating attacking player in the world than Campese, but Glen is a better positional player." However, Dwyer was outvoted by the Australian co-selectors, and Campese played his first Test at fullback for Australia.
Campese received praise for his debut performance at fullback in the second Test. Rugby journalist Bret Harris in Ella, Ella, Ella records that, "Campese performed so dazzlingly even Gould confessed to feeling a chill wind as he watched the match on television. He beat man after man every time he touched the ball." Campese was involved in the biggest controversy of the Test, as Harris documents:
Bret Harris in Ella, Ella, Ella records that, "Campese and Mark combined in the second half to score the best try of the series. Mark intercepted a pass 20 metres from the Australian tryline and raced towards the halfway before floating a pass to Campese who had zoomed up like a rocket. Campese bamboozled the Argentine fullback, Bernado Miguens, with his goose-step and drew the curtain on a superb performance."
In The Winning Way former Australian coach Bob Dwyer writes:
Australia played one Bledisloe Cup Test versus New Zealand in 1983, which was lost 8-18.
Campese continued to substitute for injured Australian fullback Roger Gould for Australia's one-off Bledisloe Cup Test for 1983 against New Zealand. Again, Australian coach Bob Dwyer recommended Randwick fullback Glen Ella for the fullback position in Gould's absence, but was overruled by his co-selectors.
Campese records in On a Wing and a Prayer that he "...missed four shots at goal from four attempts (two penalty goals and two conversions), and we lost 18-8, two tries to one in our favour, against the mighty All Blacks. I felt like kicking myself, but I would probably have missed."
This was in contrast to New Zealand's fullback Allan Hewson who managed five from six attempts at the goals. Bob Dwyer later said: "If we had been able to take even the conversion points it would have given us heart." Australian captain Mark Ella seriously contemplated replacing Campese and attempting the kicking duties himself, but he later reflected: "Who's to say I'd have done any better?"
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby records that, "Campese did create one Australian try, running off the hip of centre Andrew Slack and into space before sending flanker Simon Poidevin on a weaving run to the line." Simon Poidevin in For Love Not Money writes that, "Campo broke through a set move from the backs to me, I saw the line open and went with everything I had. I saw the figure of Bernie Fraser coming at me, and though he got to me a metre out he wouldn't stop me and over I went."
Sports journalist Bret Harris, author of Ella, Ella, Ella criticised Campese's positional play at fullback, and praised New Zealand's backs, in particular All Black centre Steve Pokere, for their tactical kicking. In My Game Your Game Campese defends his 'general play', but highlights this Test as his 'first bitter experience' playing rugby union at Test match level:
In 1983 the Australia rugby union team traveled to Europe for a Test against Italy and a two-Test series against France.
Incumbent Australian fullback Roger Gould aggravated a thigh injury prior to the Test against Italy. However, Campese was selected on the wing, and Randwick fullback Glen Ella was selected in his second Test for Australia at fullback.
Campese was assigned the goal-kicking duties against Italy. Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby writes that the Test "also marked a goal-kicking return of sorts for winger Campese, who celebrated his 21st birthday the previous night. He managed to land three conversions and a penalty after coach Dwyer had suggested he was on the kicking high-wire. 'If David starts well, he'll kick well all day,' Dwyer offered on Test eve. 'But conversely, if he starts badly, then that's the end of him.'"
Australian fullback Roger Gould returned to the Australian team for Australia's 1983 Test series against France. However, due to an injury Gould sustained, Campese continued to perform the goal-kicking responsibilities for the Wallabies, following his goal-kicking performance against Italy. However, Campese played a diminished role in the games as Australia elected a less expansive style of play. Sports journalist Bret Harris records in Ella, Ella, Ella that:
"Dwyer and Mark [Ella] agreed France was vulnerable in the inside-backs and they designed the Wallabies' tactics to exploit this weakness. They also respected the speed of France's outside backs and decided the Australians were not fast enough to run around them. Consequently, the Wallabies concentrated in busting the French up the middle, using Hawker and Gould as their main attacking weapons. In an apparent departure from the running game philosophy, Dwyer instructed Mark not to attack from first phase play, but to use the mid-field 'bomb' to unsetlle the French."
Harris further adds that, "Gary [Ella], Campese and [Brendan] Moon barely touched the ball, but they played an important role in the strategy by chasing high kicks and defending stout-heartedly."
However, a different account of the Wallabies tactics is given by Bob Dwyer in The Winning Way, who wrote that, "Mark Ella played out of character for much of the tour and, for that reason, was not nearly so effective. I strongly suspect that a number of senior players with a conservative outlook had talked Ella out of playing his natural game. The Australian players appeared afraid to run the ball against the French. I think they felt that the French were so fast that if our players were tackled and lost possession in midfield their French counterparts would present a threat."
Dwyer further added that, "It was a miserable Test for us in every respect. Roger Gould could not do the goal-kicking because of an injury, so Campese had to do it instead, and Campo is not a goal-kicker of international class. We did not lose the Test, but I count that match among my least happy Rugby memories."
Campese kicked one conversion in the first Test against France.
Campese landed only one penalty goal in Australia's 15-6 loss to France in Paris on 19 November 1983. Bret Harris reports that, "France controlled 70 per cent of the ball and enjoyed a territorial advantage for most of the match."
Prior to the 1984 Bledisloe Cup Test Series, Australia played a Test against Fiji in Suva on 9 June 1984, in which Campese scored one try. Peter Jenkins writes that, "Forward power, one try through fullback David Campese, three penalty goals to Lynagh, and five-eighth Mark Ella chipping in with a drop goal, ensured a comfortable win. Sports journalist Bret Harris documents that Campese's try came from Mark Ella "looping around Lynagh to link with Slack, who sent Campese flying for the corner.".
David Campese was selected, along with Mark Ella, to share the goal-kicking responsibility for the first Test against New Zealand in 1984. Rugby writer Peter Jenkins records in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby that, "Even wayward goal-kicking by winger Campese, who missed three attempts while Ella landed two from five, did not, on this occasion, prove crucial."
During the second Bledisloe Cup Test of 1984, Australia led New Zealand 12-0. However, All Black fullback Robbie Deans then kicked five penalty goals in a row to give New Zealand a 15-12 lead. Campese was involved in the fifth penalty of the match. Terry Smith in Path to Victory documented that, "The fifth [penalty] was the result of a horrific decision by England's Roger Quittenton... a referee who penalised David Campese for a head-high tackle as he attempted to wrap up Deans ball-and-all around the chest. Quittenton later admitted to Campese that he'd made a mistake, and added the incredible postscript that it hadn't affected the result." Campese was assigned goal-kicking duties in this Test, and kicked a penalty to bring the score to 15-all with eight minutes left in the Test. However, the All Blacks scored a try in the final stages of the match to win 19-15. Jack Pollard in Australian Rugby: The Game and its Players wrote that, "...a poor pass from Andrew Slack let New Zealand in for the winning try.
In Path to Victory Terry Smith reported that, "It wasn't until just before half-time in the third Test that Campese got his first chance of the series to run at the New Zealanders. He swept past Craig Green and Robbie Deans in bewildering fashion to conjure a try out of nothing." Smith further recorded that, "I saw Jones's half-time notes telling his players to stick to the game plan of moving the ball wide to wingers Campese and Brendan Moon whenever possible. His words fell on deaf ears."
Bryce Rope, coach of the New Zealand side that toured Australia in 1984, is quoted by Terry Smith in Path to Victory saying that, "If David Campese had been given more opportunity out wide, there's no saying the damage he could have done.'
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese wrote that, "We could talk until midnight about certain incidents involving the English referee in that third Test, and the strangely limited play of the Australian mid-field backs, who rarely released the ball out wide. But, at the end of that series, Australia had only themselves to blame for the All Blacks' victory. A great many of us resolved there and then that we would not allow such a thing to happen on the UK tour later that year."
Years later, Rope recalled that severing the link between Mark Ella and David Campese was a crucial component of the All Blacks victory. In The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby he recalls that:
In 1984 Campese was a member of the Eighth Wallabies for the 1984 Australia rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland that won rugby's "grand slam", the first Australian side to defeat all four home sides, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, on a tour.
Campese played in 10 of the 18 tour matches, including all four Tests against the four Home Nations and the final match against the Barbarians. Campese scored six tries on tour, more than any other Australian player - two of them in the final Test match against Scotland.
Campese played on the right wing in Australia's first tour match against London Division, won 22-3. Campese was then switched to fullback for the Wallabies' second tour match against South and South West Division, drawn 12-12. Campese was rested for the third match of the tour against Cardiff (lost 12-16) with James Black selected at fullback and Ross Hanley on the wing.
Campese was returned to the side for Australia's fourth match on tour against Combined Services, in which he scored three tries and made the final pass for two more tries, scored by Bill Campbell and Andrew Slack, in an eight-try 44-9 victory. Campese was then rested for the Wallabies fifth match on tour, and their final match before the first Test against England, won 17-7 against Swansea (after the match was abandoned due to floodlight failure).
Following Australia's first Test victory against England (their sixth match on tour), Campese was rested for the seventh match on tour against Midlands Division. Australia were scheduled to play Ireland the weekend following their Test against England, and Wallabies coach Alan Jones opted to select a second-string side that defeated Midlands Division 21-18.
Following Australia's second Test victory on tour against Ireland (won 16-9), Campese came-on as a late replacement in Australia's 9-16 loss to Ulster. Replacing James Black, Campese "set up another try with his first touch." Terry Cooper reports that, "He sliced through the defence, Hawker and Lynagh moved the ball on briskly and Grigg scored easily." However, Ulster's winning penalty was kicked following a penalty awarded against Campese. Campese was rested for the next two tour matches against Munster (won 31-19) and Llanelli (lost 16-19), prior to the Wallabies' third tour Test against Wales, won 28-9. Some time between Australia's second Test victory over Ireland and its third Test over Wales, Campese fell ill with the flu.
Following the third Test of the tour against Wales, Campese scored a try in the final minutes of Australia's 19-12 victory over Northern Division - his fourth try on tour. The match against Northern Division was Campese's last provincial match on tour. Australia lost to South of Scotland 6-9 and defeating Glasgow 26-12 prior to its final Test against Scotland, won 35-12. Australia then defeated Pontpool 21-18 in their final provincial match prior to the tour-closing match against the Barbarians. The match against the Barbarians featured what Campese regards as one of his four greatest performances playing for the Wallabies.
The Wallabies had a nervy start in the game against England, the first international test of the Grand Slam tour. Campese almost scored early on by chasing a high kick from Michael Lynagh. Australia settled later on after tries from Ella and Lynagh, before Campese was to make a break down the left leading to a try.
With 14 minutes left in the Test, Australia's left wing Brendan Moon suffered a broken arm in a tackle. Australian winger Matt Burke replaced Moon, moving to the right wing, and shifting Campese to play on the left wing.
In Path to Victory Terry Smith documents that:
"The best try was the last, by Simon Poidevin. Picking up a loose pass under pressure, Gould fired a long, long pass to Ella, who somehow managed to pick it up at toenail height. In the same movement he sent David Campese away down the left wing. When challenged by the cover, Campese flicked an overhead pass to Poidevin, who was tailing faithfully on the inside. Poidevin strolled nonchalently over the line to touch down on the hallowed Twickenham turf. Lynagh converted to make the final score 19-3."
In Victorious Wallabies Terry Cooper records that:
"Australia sealed their victory with three minutes remaining. An England move broke down. Gould grabbed the ball and a long, long infield pass fell at Ella's toes.
Ella stooped forward, plucked the ball off the turf without breaking stride and sent Campese on a characteristic diagonal run. Campese sprinted 40 metres and seemed set to score, but Underwood did well to block him out. It did not matter. Campese merely fed the ball inside to Simon Poidevin – backing up perfectly, and not for the last time on tour – who nonchalantly strolled over the English line."
In For Love Not Money Australian flanker Simon Poidevin recalls that, "For the last of our three tries I was tailing Campese down the touchline like a faithful sheepdog when he tossed me an overhead pass and over I went to score the Twickenham try every kid dreams of."
Three moments involving Campese are frequently cited in reports on Australia's Test against Ireland in 1984.
In Victorious Wallabies Terry Cooper reports that:
In Running Rugby Mark Ella highlights this play as "An example of how a switch pass can result in a break." Ella gives a description of Campese's break by writing this:
In For Love Not Money former Australian flanker Simon Poidevin recalls that, "Campo made a sensational midfield break, gave to me and [Matthew] Burke loomed up alongside me with their fullback Hugo MacNeill the only guy to beat. Burke was on my right, my bad passing side, and as I drew MacNeill I somehow threw the ball forward to him."
In Victorious Wallabies Terry Cooper further recalls that, "Nineteen minutes left... Australia went into overdrive and came within a fingernail of regaining the lead immediately. Ella kicked to Ireland's line and Campese's attempt to touch down was foiled by an unkind bounce."
In Path to Victory Mark Ella writes regarding the Test-winning try that he scored, involving Campese:
Rugby journalist Cooper further depicts Ella's Test-winning try:
Mark Ella gives a description of his Test-winning try in Running Rugby:
In the tribute book David Campese, Campese writes of Alan Jones that:
"Alan Jones made sure we practised the basics, but he did not tell us how toplay. What he did do was make us believe we were the best in the world. As a tactician, one of Jones' strong points was his ability to spot opposition weaknesses. Before we played Wales in 1984, he suggested we play the blinds. He had noticed the Welsh No. 8 Eddie Butler, had not played for three weeks and he had a hunch he would not be fit. So the first chance I got I went down the blind side and from that we scored under the posts."
As Australian number 8 Steve Tuynman took the ball from the back of the scrum, he searched for Nick Farr-Jones, utilising the blind under Alan Jones' command. Farr-Jones occupied Campese opposite winger and passed the ball to him, allowing Campese to run along the left wing. At the start of his run, Campese ran past Butler, who was unable to make the defending tackle. But Campese's run was not over yet, he swerved past the Welsh fullback, and executed a wonderful sidestep to get past the Welsh inside center. Campese's sidestep led him toward a group of defenders, so he then offloaded to Simon Poidevin, who quickly passed the ball to Michael Lynagh who scored an easy try under the post. Australia won 28–9 in one of their greatest victories at the time.
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby writes that, "Farr Jones helped create another try by using the short side. Campese made a superb run, Poidevin backed up and Lynagh touched down."
Terry Cooper records in Victorious Wallabies that:
"Australia's second try also came from a blind-side break. Farr-Jones again escaped after a scrum and he gave Campese room to move. The winger took off on a spectacular diagonal run towards the Welsh goal. His speed and unexpected direction created a massive overlap. The Welsh suddenly looked as though they had only ten players in action and all Australia had to do was to transfer the ball carefully. They did so. Campese to Poidevin and then on to Lynagh, who scored between the posts."
Terry Smith in Path to Victory wrote that, "Lynagh's second try came after Farr-Jones again escaped up the blind side from a scrum to set up a dazzling break by David Campese. Simon Poidevin's backing up didn't happen by accident either. He always tries to trail Campese on the inside.
Campese scored two tries in the Test against Scotland – the first tries Campese scored at Test level on the 1984 Tour to the United Kingdom.
Campese's counter-attacking was on display early in the Test. Terry Cooper writes that, "Australia were keen to bring David Campese into the action in the first minutes and he gave Scotland a scare with one of his diagonal runs. He saw Ella in support and a try looked on when Peter Grigg came bustling up to join the attack, but Ella's pass to Grigg was forward."
Terry Smith in Path to Victory documents Campese's first try by writing that, "Australia won a scrum and Ella missed out Lynagh as Gould came thundering into the line to suck in the Scottish cover, exactly as planned. Slack ran on to Gould's pass and released David Campese with a wonderfully judged long feed."
"Australia reclaimed the advantage in the 15th minute. They won a scrum 20 metres from Scotland's line. There was a big inviting open side on both sides of the scrum... Ella found Gould driving through from full back and Gould's quick transfer to Slack meant that the captain only had to find Campese for a certain try. It was not easy, for Campese had made his run very wide. But Slack successfully hurled the ball across the pitch to his wing, who trotted in at the corner."
Early in the second half, Australian fullback Roger Gould had the chance to pass to Campese for a possible try. Terry Cooper writes that, "There was Gould once more making the play and he had a choice of two colleagues to pass to as he approached Scotland's line. He chose Ella, the inside man. Ella's try meant that he had achieved the unique distinction of scoring a try in every Test."
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby writes that, "A superb Wallaby counterattack from deep inside their own territory, after winger Grigg had taken an intercept, ended with Campese scoring his second try of the game."
Toward the end of the game Campese booted the ball downfield. Australia's other winger, Peter Grigg, missed a tackle, allowing Scotland a possible chance to counter-attack. Grigg ran back toward the play, and intercepted the ball from Scottish prop Iain Milne. Rugby writer Terry Cooper writes that from this point:
Grigg intercepted and ran back briefly towards his own line to link with his colleagues and to clear the onrushing Scots... It was obvious from the stand as soon as Ella received the ball that, provided Campese and Steve Tuynman could exchange passes out on the left, a try was on... Ella gave Campese room and Tuynman hung about waiting to play his part. Campese drew the last serious defender to him, flicked the ball to Tuynman and moved into place for the return. It worked like a dream and there was Campese with half the pitch to run and only John Beattie near him. Beattie did well to stay the same three metres behind Campese as they hurtled down the touchline, but there was never a doubt that Campese would score...Campese's effort won the try-of-the-tour award from the brewers.
Simon Poidevin in For Love Not Money writes that, "Finally, our fourth try was the most marvellous piece of counter-attacking you'd ever want to see. Griggy intercepted a Scottish pass, flicked it back and off we went until Campese straightened up, gave to Tuynman on the left flank and The Bird then turned it back in for Campo to make a 50-metre dash for the line."
Terry Smith in Path to Victory writes that:
"The final Wallaby try was the counterattack to top them all. With Scotland now casting any inhibitions aside, winger Peter Grigg intercepted a pass deep in Australia's territory on the right... Grigg found Ella, whose long pass was taken by Campese, and fed out to Tuynman on the left flank. The No 8 broke clear and tossed a pass back infield to Campese, who blazed away to outpace the covering John Beattie in a sixty-metre sprint."
In the tribute book David Campese, Scottish rugby commentator Bill McLaren recalls Campese's try against Scotland, "So it was in Edinburgh, where in 1984 he had brought the Murrayfield crowd to its feet with a vintage performance culminating in a typically gorgeous try, that I caused him some embarrassment by thanking him for the vast pleasure he had given me in commentary at matches in which he had been involved." McLaren further wrote that:
"The climax to Australia's Grand Slam success in the United Kingdom in 1984 took place at Murrayfield and I can still see him joining a counter-attack from his own '22', igniting Steve Tuynman, gathering in Tuynman's inside pass then taking off at such a rate of knots that John Beattie, a British Lion in New Zealand in 1983, just never looked like preventing him from scoring. The great man was accorded a massive ovation from the Murrayfield crowd."
Australia played against the Barbarians one week after winning the Grand Slam. That match is perhaps best remembered for David Campese's zig-zagging run that turned Welsh centre Robert Ackerman inside out in the process, before Campese, opting not to run past Ackerman in the process of confounding him, but rather offered himself to be tackled before passing the ball to Michael Hawker for a try.
Campese and Ackerman had encountered a few personal scrapes with one another during different moments of their careers. Ackerman had previously played club rugby in Canberra not long before the Barbarians game, and according to Mark Ella in his book, Running Rugby, the two men did not get along with each other. After the Wallabies 1984 win against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park, Campese claimed Ackerman had buried his head in the dirt during the game, adding to a sense of tension between the two.
This tension further increased between the two, as Ackerman bumped into David Campese, Michael Lynagh and then Australian coach, Alan Jones, as they were entering the Angel Hotel in Cardiff. Ackerman walked up to the Wallabies coach and said in the presence of the two Australian backs, after Australia had beaten Wales 28–9, "Congratulations, I didn't think your backs were too good today."
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese recalls that, "That very night in Cardiff, only hours after we had flogged Wales 28-9, their players turned up at the after-match dinner and one of them, Robert Ackerman, said: 'You can't say your players are better individually than ours. Man on man, there is little difference'."
Alan Jones described Campese's run in the tribute book David Campese by writing that:
In particular, I shall never forget the Barbarians game at Cardiff Arms Park to end our Grand Slam tour of 1984. We weren't in such good shape – our discipline had surrendered to celebration after beating Scotland and we knew this was to be Europe's game of retribution against us. We seemed to be constantly counter-attacking to get out of trouble and then Campese struck. He made a break from within his own half, the defence came at him and he stepped left and right with remarkable speed. And in the twinkling of an eye, the try line was his. But he had one defender to beat, the Welsh centre Robert Ackerman. Ackerman, unfortunately, had criticised the Australian victory after our crushing victory in the Test against Wales and Campo didn't have the words to retaliate then. But he retaliated now, with his feet and hands. He turned Ackerman inside out, threatening to go past, then changing direction, offering himself to be tackled then accelerating away until the crowd erupted, first in disbelief, then in sheer amusement and joy at what they were seeing. One yard from the line, Campo passed to Michael Hawker, and I'm sure, to this day, the pass was forward, but the referee knew he had seen artistry of incomparable dimension at work and the only reward he could offer was a try, which he duly did. It's an image I'll always associate with Campese. It remains for me the metaphor of his career.
In Running Rugby Mark Ella described famous run against the Barbarians:
If Campese wanted to, I am sure he could have sprinted for the corner and scored the try. Instead, he ran straight at Ackerman. The Welshman obviously knew enough about Campese to realise it was useless to try and tackle him front-on. Instead, he did what I suggested earlier that any defender should do against Campese – he ran with him. It was then that Campese began to zigzag, forcing Ackerman to zigzag, too, looking over one shoulder after another to see which way Campese was heading. I was following about 20 metres behind and could not believe what was happening. I have no doubt that Campese turned it on to make a personal point with Ackerman. When the defence eventually closed in on him, Campese flicked a pass over his shoulder to Michael Hawker, who scored the try.
In an Australia Broadcast Corporation rugby documentary entitled, The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby, Ackerman admitted Campese could have passed him at any stage if he wanted to:
"My line of thinking was is all I was trying to do in that time was to stall him. At the end of the day if he wanted to Campo could have just burnt me off on the outside. But I was just looking for a bit of cover and as it happened I did stall him and he didn't score that one. I was the player he made a fool of if anybody needs to remember."
Campese received praise for other moments in this game. Rugby writer Terry Cooper wrote that,
"[Mark] Ella initiated one [try] by running from near his own line and David Campese toyed with Rob Ackerman in a 50 metre surge before giving [Michael] Hawker a scoring pass. Ella and Campese again linked and Campese this time sent Roger Gould over. The crowd were angered by what looked a forward pass from Ella to Campese and the referee was certainly not in the mood to spot a bit of obstruction as to move reached its climax."
Australia commenced their 1985 Test season with a two-Test series against Canada, in which Campese did not play due to injury." Campese also did not play in the single Bledisloe Cup Test in 1985, lost 9-10 to New Zealand. In Path to Victory former Australian rugby player Mark Ella wrote that, "Without David Campese, our backs seemed to have forgotten how to score tries."
Campese returned to the Australian Test side later in 1985 for a two-Test series against Fiji. Australia won the first Test 52-28 and the second Test 31-9. In Path to Victory: Wallaby Power in the 1980s Mark Ella writes that, "Fiji's stand-out player is winger Senivalati Laulau, who can be devastating when he gets the ball. He looks ancient and probably is, but he's very fast and always gives David Campese a hard time. This says a lot for Laulau's ability."
Campese scored two tries against Italy in Australia's first Test of the 1986 season, with what rugby writer Terry Smith in Path to Victory described as "probably his most complete display in Australia's colours." By scoring his 14th Test try, Campese equalled Australian winger Brendan Moon's record for most Test tries scored by an Australian player. By scoring his 15th Test try, Campese broke this record. He also became the third Australian to score 100 career Test match points.
Australia's won their second Test of 1986 against Five Nations champions France, 27-14. Campese was moved to fullback for the injured Roger Gould in a one-off game against France, scoring a try in the 26th minute."
Campese continued to play at fullback in Australia's 1986 two-Test home series against Argentina, substituting for the injured Australian fullback Roger Gould.
Rugby writer Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold writes that, "David Campese ensured he would start the series against New Zealand in his favoured fullback role when he scored two of Australia's three tries in a whitewash of the Pumas. Deputising in the No.15 jumper for the sixth time in 24 Tests, Campese's running from deep had Argentina running scared. His first try followed a tight-head scrum win, snaffled by hooker Tom Lawton in the 22nd minute. Farr-Jones and Lynagh combined, and Campese crossed out wide... And midway through the second half, Farr-Jones fired a pass to Papworth, Campese arrived at top pace and was over next to the posts."
Rugby writer Terry Smith in Path to Victory writes that, "David Campese scored two slashing tries from fullback, the second quite sensationally executed. Campese hit the line like an express train and swept past the Pumas as though he had caught a succession of green lights. It was his sixth try in four Tests with four of them from fullback."
With Campese scoring tries at an amazing rate and providing Australia with a string of dazzling performances, Australian coach Alan Jones proclaimed David Campese to be "the Bradman of rugby". Jones expressed that Campese had a very special talent, and nobody in rugby had more talent. Jones' proclamation was well documented by the Australia media, and ultimately had a detrimental effect on Campese. As the weight of expectation grew, so too did the criticisms for any mistake Campese made.
Campese was a member of the 1986 Australia Wallabies that defeated the New Zealand All Blacks in New Zealand. The 1986 Australia Wallabies became the second Australian rugby team to beat the New Zealand All Blacks in New Zealand in a rugby union Test series. They are one of five rugby union sides to win a rugby Test series in New Zealand, along with the 1937 South African Springboks, the 1949 Australian Wallabies, the 1971 British Lions, and the 1994 French touring side.
Campese played fullback in the first two Tests of the 1986 Test series versus New Zealand, before being moved to wing in the final Test.
Three moments involving David Campese are frequently recorded in reports of the first Test against New Zealand in 1986. Rugby journalist Terry Smith records in Path to Victory that:
"In spite of having the wind advantage, it took twenty-two minutes for Australia to break the spirited All Black defensive line with a try by fullback David Campese, his twentieth in twenty-five Tests. From a scrum win, Nick Farr-Jones made a glorious break on the open side, stumbled, and when tackled, Campese was there with razor-sharp reactions to toe the ball over the line and dive on it for a try that gave Lynagh a simple conversion."
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold recalls that, "Halfback Farr-Jones made a break but lost his footing. The ball went to ground and fullback David Campese toed it ahead to touch down." He then further adds that "...Farr-Jones and inside centre Brett Papworth combined to feed Campese, who held up his pass to put winger Matthew Burke across for a 13-6 advantage."
Jenkins documents Campese's involvement in Australia's second try in Wallaby Gold by writing that, "From Farr-Jones, the ball spun to Brett Papworth, then to Campese, who held up the pass until winger John Kirwan was lured infield from Burke. Campese then tossed the ball to Burke, who pulled it in to have a clear run to the corner."
Peter Jenkins records that, "Campese, having scored one try and created another, had a significant role in the third, this time for the All Blacks. His infield pass when tackled near halfway finished in the arms of All Black centre Joe Stanley. He swept downfield and, when taken by Lynagh, slipped a pass to flanker Mark Brooke-Cowden for the try."
Terry Smith in Path to Victory also records this incident:
Campese quickly went from hero to villain. Standing in a tackle near the sideline, he threw a madcap pass infield which was snapped up by Joe Stanley, the All Black centre. He sped clear before being pulled down short of the line in a desperate tackle by Lynagh. The damage had been done. Stanley popped up a pass to breakaway Mark Brooke-Cowden, who capped a superlative game by scoring a try beside the posts.
Campese in On a Wing and a Prayer records that, "At Wellington, where the first Test was held, I threw a poor pass towards Matt Burke. Joe Stanley gathered it after the ball bounced and the All Blacks eventually scored. We still won, but only just."
In For Love Not Money Simon Poidevin writes that:
Australia won the Test, only just, by 13-12 on a wet and windy Athletic Park. Another one-point margin. We had it won more comfortably than it looked until David Campese, who was at fullback, made a mistake towards the end of the game. Standing in a tackle, he flicked the ball back infield where it was snapped up by All Black centre Joe Stanley who then popped up a pass as he was being tackled to breakaway Mark Brooke-Cowden for a try beside the posts. The easiest of conversions made it one point the difference, and in the dozen minutes remaining we had to tackle like mad dogs in the fierce wind and pelting rain to keep them out. We were tremendously relieved at fulltime...
Philip Derriman in The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby records that, "Australia scored two tries to one, and Campese scored one of them. He also made an error which allowed the New Zealanders in for their only try, prompting Alan Jones to joke that this was the Test 'where Campo scored two tries – one for us and one for them.'
Following the Test Australian coach Alan Jones said of Campese that, "By scoring a try and setting up another, Campese more than cancelled out his late blemish." Jones went public with an assurance that Campese would be fullback for the remaining two Tests. A day following the first Test Campese is recorded as saying that, "I still feel sick about that pass. It was the worst moment of my life. I'll never forget the looks on the faces of the other guys."
Terry Smith records in Path to Victory that
Instinctive genius Campese then volunteered he once had been told if ever he started thinking what he was going to do before he took the field, he should retire. 'I was
thinking too much before the Test,' he admitted. 'I listened to everybody. Then I went out simply to be rock-safe and not make a mistake'
Narked by constant claims that Campese is better suited to the wing, Jones shot back: 'New Zealanders are trying to get into Campo's mind. They want him to feel flawed and erratic when he plays fullback.'
Alan Jones writes in the tribute book David Campese that:
...he had a habit of adding to the script. It was the very quality which, most times, defined his greatness. But on this occasion, my heart leapt and our collective hopes sank as Campo hurled a 'Hail Mary' pass inside to be intercepted by New Zealand who scored under the posts. Suddenly a winning lead and victory were both at peril, but we survived. The next night at happy hour with the team, we had a concert where everybody had to put on an act. Steve Cutler chose a Wallabies' version of Sale of the Century
and the first question was 'Who scored two tries at Eden Park on Saturday?' Now at first no-one did, because the score was 13-12 to us. But Cuts' answer was 'Campo. He scored one for us and one for them."
Australia lost the second Bledisloe Cup Test of 1986 to New Zealand 12-13. Following the Test, claims were made that Australian coach Alan Jones made derogatory remarks about Campese's performance, after the fullback dropped a few 'high-kicks' in very wet conditions.
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese wrote that, "I was playing full-back and dropped a few bombs the All Blacks put up to me. I had a far from spectacular game and we ended up losing. Afterwards, I went in to have a shower and I could see that Jonsey was very upset... But what right did our coach have to tell the other players, "Don't worry, fellows, you played without a full-back today'. I found that out two days later and you can imagine how I felt."
In For Love Not Money former Wallaby Simon Poidevin refutes such claims by Campese, "Tales of Jonsey screaming at Campese in the dressing-room immediately after the game for the poor way he played that afternoon was absolute nonsense. Nothing at all was said by anyone for nearly three-quarters of an hour, and the only noise I can recall was that of tough men openly sobbing from disappointment."
However, Poidevin's testimony is contradicted by an account published in Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Biography which states that: "...the coach turned to the other players and said in a far more conciliatory tone, 'Anyway, don't worry, men. You played without a full-back today.'
Following the Test Jones criticised the Welsh referee Derek Bevan for disallowing a try that would have won Australia the Test and the series stating, "When David Campese plays badly, he has to face me. Who does Derek Bevan have to answer to?" Jones told the Australian press that Campese's mistakes "stuck out like a lighthouse in a lily pond", adding, "I have a very high estimation of David Campese. I hope I don't have to do any revision."
In On A Wing and a Prayer Campese asserts he later tried to apologise to Jones for his mistakes, which resulted in a verbal barrage of insults from Jones which lasted many minutes. Jones is reported to have told Campese that, "I told the papers you were the Bradman of rugby - now you've let me down. In Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Autobiography a similar account is given by Farr-Jones, overhearing Jones' verbal barrage before Farr-Jones entered the room and attempted to calm the situation.
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese recalls that, "I left that room feeling hurt and humiliated. I did something I virtually never do, as I said much earlier: I went out and got drunk. Outside in the Dunedin night the rain was trickling down the windows and the wind was blowing. It was cold and horrible, which exactly reflected my mood. The drops of rain on the windows could have been tears in my soul."
In David Campese Gordon Bray wrote that:
There would be more of the same during the following tour of New Zealand in '86 under Jones. After winning the first Test in Wellington, the Wallabies were robbed of a series victory in the second Test when Welsh referee Derek Bevan disallowed a legitimate try by Steve Tuynman. The enigmatic Jones was Campo's greatest admirer, but after a wretched day at fullback, that relationship soured. 'Today we played without a fullback,' commented Jones to a group of exhausted players in the Australian dressing room.
Later that night in Jones' room, Campo copped another whitering tongue-lashing from the coach for his inept performance. So distraught was he in a nightclub a few hours later, that he declared he was ready to retire from rugby. It was distressing to see such a gifted athlete and entertainer so despondent and agitated. The world's rugby enthusiasts can be grateful that Mark Ella consoled his teammate that night."
In Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby Alan Jones contested the accusations of slander saying:
In Path to Victory: Wallaby Power in the 1980s the Daily Mirror's Terry Smith writes that, "One very famous player was in danger of losing his Test spot in New Zealand until his team-mates urged Jones to retain him." Australian coach Alan Jones selected Campese on the wing for the final test instead of fullback. This Test marked the first time David Campese opposed All Black winger John Kirwan. Kirwan had missed the 1984 Bledisloe series due to injury. Campese had missed the 1985 Bledisloe Cup Test due to injury.
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby writes that, "A try to Campese sealed one of the greatest Wallaby wins." In Nick Farr-Jones former Wallaby and author Peter Fitzsimons writes that, "With seven minutes to go in the game, Farr-Jones took the ball from a quick ruck, darted away, and threw Campese a fifteen-metre pass, which set him up to run twenty metres to score, and put the Wallabies thirteen points ahead with five minutes to go. The match was sealed with the final score of Australia 22, New Zealand 9, and in the jubilations of it all Farr-Jones picked Campese up in the in-goal and put him over his shoulders."
In Path to Victory: Wallaby Power in the 1980s Mark Ella wrote: "It was good to see David Campese get that last try because by now he had no confidence at all. He was absolutely shot to pieces. It doesn't really matter in what position Campo plays as long as he sees the ball. It could be wing or it could be fullback. Nobody's going to argue he shouldn't be in the side. The main thing is to build up his confidence, and this can't be done if Campo is just going to chase all day and not see the ball."
In Two Mighty Tribes Australian rugby commentator Gordon Bray wrote that, "...to his great credit, he kept his eye firmly on the ball and eventually scored the Bledisloe Cup-clinching try in the third test at Eden Park. It was a measure of his self-belief and pride, and it demonstrated to the broader rugby community that his was not just another frail talent. There was strength of character to stiffen the extravagant skills."
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese wrote that, "the first-ever World Cup, in 1987, was ultimately a disaster both for Australia and for me personally." Campese played throughout the entire 1987 World Cup impeded by injury. He writes that:
Campese missed a pre-World Cup Test match against South Korea in Brisbane on 17 May 1987 due to injury. However, he made a successful return to the Wallabies for their first World Cup pool match against England.
Campese was involved in the biggest controversy of his first World Cup game against England. Rugby writer Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold records that, "It took 10 minutes into the second half for Australia to score their first try, a controversial one, when Campese went across. He placed the ball on the knee of English rival Rory Underwood before it bounced away and Lynagh grounded it over the English line. But referee Keith Lawrence had already awarded the try to Campese...
Campese later confessed that, "The chief talking-point was the fact that I was awarded a try which I never touched down properly. It was not a score. It you study the video, it is obvious that I was not happy with the decision the referee made..."
Campese's defence in this Test was later criticised by Australian coach Alan Jones.
In Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby rugby writer Peter Jenkins documents that, "...individually, there had been some impressive moments. Winger Campese, criticised the week before by Jones for indifferent defence, received after this game a one-word endorsement from the coach: 'Fantastic.' Campese scored a try, his 23rd, just one short of the world record, and produced an inspired flick pass for halfback Brian Smith to cross.
Playing at fullback, Campese scored his 24th Test try in Australia's World Cup pool match against Japan, equaling the then world record for tries with Ian Smith of Scotland (1924–33).
Campese has called the 1987 World Cup semi-final, played between Australia and France, the most memorable Test he ever played for Australia. In On a Wing and a Prayer he described it as "a great game of rugby, one of the very best in which I have ever played. Sensational things, like brilliant scores, started to happen in that game and we just carried on from there."
Campese scored his world record 25th Test try after halftime, surpassing Scottish winger Ian Smith's 54-year-old record for most international Test tries. In Blindsided Michael Lynagh recalls the try that gave Campese the world-record for tries at Test level by writing that, "My dummy to wrong-foot Franck Mesnel and a step inside Philippe Sella [Note: It was Pierre Berbizier] set up a break deep inside French territory. As he usually did, Campo showed up at the end of the move to score in the corner after Peter Grigg popped the ball inside to him."
Rugby writer Peter Jenkins describes the final moments of the Test thus:
Campese later wrote that, "I was blamed for letting a kick from the French left wing, Patrice Lagisquet, bounce late in our semi-final against France at the Concord Oval, and the French picked up the loose ball to go on and score after a bewildering movement involving 11 passes. However, he later explained that, "The reason I did not catch Lagisquet's kick ahead near the end, when the scores were level at 24-24, was that I slipped in the mud trying to reach it."
Campese continued his injury-impeded 1987 season by playing in the one-off Bledisloe Cup Test of 1987, a month after the 1987 Rugby World Cup. Campese played on the right wing, and did not oppose his archrival John Kirwan in this Test.
In My Game Your Game Campese writes that, "It was not a memorable month or two, and later in the year I had to drop out of a major Wallaby tour for the one and only time in my career, when an x-ray of my ankle before we went to Argentina revealed the bone had cracked in half."
Campese returned to Test level rugby following his ankle injury in 1988 for the two-Test series against England.
Campese received acclaim from sports writer Peter Jenkins for his performance in the second Test:
Australia were easily beaten in the 1988 Bledisloe Cup. Campese marked All Black winger John Kirwan for all three Tests in the series. Kirwan scored four tries in the series. Campese later confessed that Kirwan's excellent performances against him affected his confidence, such that his mother sent him a poem titled Winners Take Chances. For the rest of his career, Campese would read that poem before every Test he played in.
In the tribute book David Campese, Campese wrote of Kirwan that, "John Kirwan was another winger I really admired. He was a strong aggressive player, and he got the better of me quite a few times. With the ball in his hands JK was very determined. He had a job to do and it did not matter who was in front of him." Kirwan is recorded as saying of Campese that, "It was difficult and daunting to play him because he had all the tricks. I tried to intimidate him as much as I could by getting close to him before I'd step and using my physicality against him."
In the first Test of the 1988 Bledisloe Cup New Zealand scored three tries in the opening 12 minutes of the match. In the opening minutes of the game, Australian fullback Andrew Leeds failed to catch a high kick, the ball fell to All Black prop Steve McDowell, who ran past Campese to score a try. John Kirwan scored his first try of the Test in the eighth minute by running past Campese, after All Black flyhalf Grant Fox called a double cut-out pass. Kirwan scored a second time in the 12th minute after an overlap had been created for him.
New Zealand led Australia 14-4 at halftime. Michael Lynagh kicked Australia's last points shortly after halftime to make the score 14-7, before the All Blacks rushed ahead to win the Test 32-7.
The loss was the then heaviest defeat the All Blacks had achieved against the Wallabies since the third Test of 1972 in Auckland, won by New Zealand 38-3.
Following the Wallabies first Test defeat, the Australian team management planned to move Campese to the fullback position for the second Test, replacing Andrew Leeds. However, Australian flyhalf Michael Lynagh injured himself with a badly corked thigh in the second half of Queensland's 12-27 loss to the All Blacks, leaving Australia without a recognised goal-kicker. Randwick player Lloyd Walker was then selected at flyhalf, Leeds was reinstated at fullback so Australia could have a goal-kicker to replace Lynagh, and Campese moved back to the left-wing position.
Australia rushed to a 16-6 half-time lead. However, a try to John Kirwan, his third Test try in the series, brought New Zealand back into the Test.
The final score of 19-19 was the only time the All Blacks did not win a game of rugby from 1987 until late 1990.
Australia lost the third and final 1988 Bledisloe Cup Test convincingly, 9-30. Late in the Test, Campese was moved to fullback to replace the injured Andrew Leeds. It was then that John Kirwan scored his fourth Test try of the series after a break from All Black openside flanker Michael Jones. Rugby journalist Spiro Zavos gives an account of Kirwan's try in Two Mighty Tribes:
Campese recovered from his disappointing 1988 Bledisloe Cup Series to enjoy one of his finest ever tours on the 1988 Australia rugby union tour of England, Scotland and Italy, as a member of the Ninth Wallabies to tour the United Kingdom. In My Game Your Game Campese wrote that, "When I think back over my Test career, it seems most of my best performances have been outside Australia, such as the World Cup of 1991 in Britain, the Wallaby tour of the UK in 1988, and the Grand Slam trip in 1984. Campese scored 15 tries on tour and achieved a personal total of 72 points.
Andrew Slack in Noddy: The Official Biography of Michael Lynagh wrote that, "Lynagh, more than most, recognises genius, and he admitted the performances of Campese throughout that tour were certainly in that class." In the tribute book David Campese, Stephen Jones wrote that, "At no point subsequent to that trip has Campese been regarded as less than a rugby god in the northern hemisphere." In the rugby documentary, Campese: Rugby's My Life, former Australian coach Bob Dwyer said that:
The form of the Australian team suffered in the early stages of the tour, with Australia losing three of its first six provincial matches, before losing the first Test on tour to England. Following the Test loss to England, Australia went undefeated for the remainder of the tour.
While Australia struggled in the early stages of the tour, Campese's form was lauded by British critics. Campese played in Australia's first match on tour, lost 10-21 against London. In the second game on tour against Northern Division, lost 9-15, Campese scored a try in the early stages on the game. Campese scored three tries in a 37-9 victory over England B - Australia's third match on tour. Campese, along with Wallaby captain Nick Farr-Jones, was then rested and selected on the bench for Australia's fourth match on tour, a 10-16 loss to South-West Division. Bolsted by the return of Michael Lynagh to the Australia national rugby union team, Campese regained selection for Australia's fifth provincial game against Midlands Division, in which he was instrumental in setting-up Brad Girvan for a try in the 60th minute: “The Wallabies were on the defensive until Campese cut his way upfield before unloading to winger James Grant, who passed back inside to Girvan.” In the sixth match on tour against England Students, Campese scored two tries, kicked three conversions and two penalties, scoring 20 points in a 36-13 victory.
Campese played in Australia's ninth match on tour against South of Scotland. The Sydney Morning Herald rugby writer Greg Growden reported that, "Australia fully deserved to be 23-0 ahead at halftime after well-crafted tries by Niuqila, Gourley and David Campese, who left the field in the 30th minute with a slight groin strain." Campese was then rested for the 10th match on tour against North and Midlands of Scotland with Australian team management electing a side composed almost entirely of players who didn't play in Australia's victory over South of Scotland.
British journalist and the rugby correspondent for The Times and The Sunday Times Stephen Jones recorded that:
In one of the early matches on tour, Campese was on the left wing for Australia against the England B team, in a match played at Sale, south-West of Manchester. In the early stages, Dean Ryan, the giant no.8, came tearing around the fringes about 50 metres out, made a bee-line for Campese and in company with several large mates, drove hard at Campese, no doubt hoping to wipe out the Australian and leave him flat as a doormat, the perfect target for the following ruckers. The crowd cheered in delight as Ryan lowered his shoulder and hit Campese. The other forwards piled in.
To all those engrossed in the close-quarter melee it was something of a surprise to find that when all the players climbed back to their feet Campese was not at the bottom of the pile, winded and wounded. In fact, Campese was touching down for a try. As Ryan loomed, Campese had stolen in, stolen away the ball and simply sprinted off in glorious isolation down the left hand touchline while the England B attack continued without the ball.
Campese played in a shock-loss to England at Twickenham in 1988. Shortly after half-time Campese scored Australia's second try of the game when he intercepted a Jonathan Webb pass to sprint 70 metres for a try. Jenkins writes that, "Australia scored three tries to England's four – including a 70-metre intercept effort from Campese..."
Campese scored two tries in a 32-13 victory over the Scottish rugby team, in which Australia scored five tries to Scotland's two. Former Wallaby captain Andrew Slack, author of Noddy: The Official Biography of Michael Lynagh, wrote that, "Australia won 32-13 and although Lynagh was successful with only five kicks from eleven attempts, two delicate chip kicks provided tries for David Campese and ensured the restoration of Australia's rugby reputation." Slack further wrote that, "Campese had been the undoubted star of the tour, and that was made clear by the four youngsters who ran up and down the Murrayfield pitch after the game waving a large banner reading 'David Campese Walks on Water.'
The match against the Barbarians contained what Campese regards as one of his four best performances for the Wallabies.
In Noddy: The Authorised Biography of Michael Lynagh, Andrew Slack wrote that, "The match against the Barbarians in Cardiff featured one of Campese's greatest-ever performances and the Welsh crowd afforded him the rare honour of a standing ovation as he left the field. The Australian players were similarly impressed and held back after the full-time whistle to allow Campese the chance to walk off first...
In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese writes that Cardiff Arms Park is "Certainly the venue I have fondest memories of after a standing ovation the crowd there gave me in 1988. It was during a Barbarians match, and my attacking game was about as finely-tuned as it had ever been. I had made a couple of really good runs and, after setting up one try and scoring another, the crowd got to their feet and clapped me back to halfway. I'll never forget it."
In the tribute book David Campese, Campese's try against the Barbarians is listed as the try Campese regards "as his best try in international rugby." In the same book Scottish rugby commentator Bill McLaren wrote that:
In My Game Your Game Campese wrote that:
In Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby Peter Jenkins wrote that Campese's "brilliance was accorded a standing ovation at Cardiff Arms Park after the Wallabies played the Barbarians in their final match of the UK leg. His bewildering run for a solo try, where defenders were turned in circles so many times that staggered dizzily back to position, has been scripted into the folklore of the once-famous ground..."
In Running Rugby Mark Ella described a run Campese made in this Test by writing that:
Campese concluded the 1988 Australia rugby union tour of England, Scotland and Italy with three tries against Italy in Rome.
The British Lions toured Australia for a three-Test series in 1989, which Australia lost 1-2. The series is perhaps best known for "Campo's Corner" - a mistake Campese made in the third and deciding Test in the series. Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold describes it thus:
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese details the first Test by recalling that:
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese documents that, "...the second Test was a disaster for us. We still led the Lions 12-9 with under five minutes remaining, but we had been badly put off our game. The Lions had done that, plainly and simply, by intimidating us." He further states that:
The Sunday Mail's Wayne Smith wrote that, "But in the space of the final five breathtaking minutes, the Lions pulled their tour out of the fire with two stunning tries – the first by fullback Gavin Hastings, the second by centre Jeremy Guscott.
"There was more than a degree of doubt about the legality of Hastings’ try, as the huge final pass from his brother Scott appeared forward, but the match-clincher three minutes later by Guscott could be traced back directly to Australian left winger David Campese, who dropped two high balls in the space of a minute."
In Blindsided Michael Lynagh writes that, "For the second Test up in Brisbane the Lions had a specific method. It was, 'Let's target their halfback.' They figured that they couldn't stop guys like Campo and me running the game, so they thought, 'Okay, how do we stop the ball getting to them? Let's cut off the supply.' So they decided to upset our captain, Nick, by basically making the game one long physical fight. It worked... Once they'd upset Nick. they started kicking at Campo, kicking behind him, putting pressure on him all the time. The Lions were just a different team from the first Test.
In Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All, Lions’ hooker Brian Moore recollects that, "...I had been on the Lions tour in 1989 when Campese, though a brilliant attacking force, had demonstrated his dislike of fielding high kicks; particularly the possibility of also being caught by a pack of forwards only too happy to be given a chance to answer his fulsome criticism of them in their own way."
- Gordon Bray, 'The Crooked Road to Genius', David Campese, 6.
In the first half of the series-deciding Test Campese recovered the rugby ball in-goal and successfully 'dummied' past Lions' winger Ieuan Evans, ran the ball beyond Australia's 22, and obtained a large territorial gain for Australia. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese wrote that, "I had made a similar move [to his famous mistake later in the game] in the first half, which had worked, but on that occasion I had run the ball out myself without worrying about releasing anyone else. That is what I invariably do in that position if I'm attempting to run - I put the onus on myself to make the attack work, rather than seeking help from other quarters.
Former Australian rugby captain Andrew Slack in Noddy: The Authorised Biography of Michael Lynagh writes that:
Peter Fitzsimons documents in Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Autobiography that:
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese gives a description of his mistake:
In The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby Philip Derriman writes that:
British and Irish winger Ieuan Evans recalled that:
Former British and Irish Lion Jeremy Guscott in Behind the Lions uttered similar sentiments about the Lions being exposed in defence out wide by recalling that:
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that:
Campese's error made the scoreline 12-13, following Gavin Hastings missed conversion, costing Australia four points. The Lions forwards took over the Test, and surged ahead to a 19-12 lead. Following Campese's famous mistake, the Wallabies had an attacking opportunity from set-piece play, and Michael Lynagh called a move that, if executed properly, would have led to Campese scoring under the posts. Scott Hastings recalls in Behind the Lions that:
Campese records in his autobiography that, "We were 19-12 down but closed the gap to 19-18 with two more penalties from Lynagh. Andrew Slack records that, "Despite two late Lynagh goals the Lions went on to win 19-18. Campese became the target for a virulent press and the blunder has become one of the most notorious incidents in the recent history of the game."
Campese further records in his autobiography that following the Test not one Australian player spoke to him or offered him any consolatory remarks. Only Australian coach Bob Dwyer approached Campese following the Test and said, 'Mate, forget it. It's one of those things.' Campese writes that, "No one will ever know how much that meant to me then." In Blindsided Michael Lynagh recalls that during the after-match reception the Lions began to buy Campese champagne. Campese left the after-match reception after "20 minutes or so" and drove home. While on his way home a police officer booked him for speeding at 104 kmh in a 60 kmh zone.
Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby records that:
In The Winning Way former Australian coach Bob Dwyer writes that, "They exposed our vulnerability, mentally, to the kind of bully-boy tactics they employed... there was a mental attitude prevailing in the Australian team in the late 1980s which made Australia a soft target for any team which sets out to unsettle it with foul play."
Australian flanker Simon Poidevin, who didn't play in the Test and watched it from the stands, wrote in For Love Not Money that Australia were "beaten in the deciding Test by a much more convincing margin than the 19-18 scoreline indicated. Something was well and truly missing from our game and it was very sad to watch." The official website of the British and Irish Lions utters similar sentiments to Bob Dwyer's about the dominance of the Lions forwards.
Finlay Calder, captain of the 1989 British & Irish Lions, in Behind the Lions, also argued that Campese's mistake didn't cost the Australia national rugby union team the series, asserting that:
In essence, Campese's famous blunder may have been how the Lions series was lost, but not necessarily why.
Campese stated he felt the whole incident was blown out of proportion, and that to single out one mistake in a game where many mistakes can be made is silly. Campese has often expressed his view that losing the tighthead on the opposition line was also a horrible mistake made at a crucial moment.
The day following the 3rd Test versus the Lions, Campese commented to Peter Jenkins, rugby writer for The Australian, that he felt like retiring.
Peter Fitzsimons documents in Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Autobiography that, "...a brief media storm erupted over the next few days to decide, in the words of the Australian rugby writer Greg Campbell, whether Campese was a 'legend or a liability'."
Jeremy Guscott in Behind the Lions recalls that:
Wayne Smith in The Sunday Mail wrote, "How much longer can the Wallabies afford to carry a player who appears to feel the mundane, humdrum basics of rugby are beneath his extraordinary talents and who places applause ahead of responsibility to his teammates?" In the same paper former Australian captain Andrew Slack wrote that Campese should not even be considered for a place in the tour-closing Anzac XV side. Slack wrote that, "Campese, who comes and goes as he chooses, makes too many ‘one-off’ bad mistakes when wearing the green and gold." He further opined that, "His teammates deserve to be, and undoubtedly will be, disgusted with him."
In My Game Your Game Campese writes that:
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that:
Slack defended himself as the author of Michael Lynagh's biography saying that, "Although accepting the blame, Campese reacted poorly to the criticism that followed... Sure, other players may not have performed at their best at some stages of the game, but one incident lost them the contest and that was Campese's error." Slack further criticised Campese for hypocrisy. Responding to criticisms that Campese made regarding Michael Lynagh for his performance in the first Test against France from 1990, Slack wrote that,
In response to the rush of criticisms aimed at Campese, Nick Farr-Jones, the then Australian captain, wrote a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper defending Campese on 19 July 1989 writing:
Not only as captain of the national team, but as an Australian, it distubs me to hear and read the constant and at times villifying attacks by rugby followers and the press on one of our greatest sportsmen, David Campese
Campo's blunder last Saturday was careless and costly. But few of the Australian players would be satisfied with their performances, including myself. Campo will hopefully learn by the mistake and the whole team, I am sure, will not only show the tremendous spirit in Australian rugby but will improve on individual performances when matched against the might of New Zealand in August.
To Campo I say: Yes, one bad mistake on Saturday which I know you will learn from, but, mate, if I was a selector you would always be one of the first picked, with no handcuffs or chains to inhibit you."
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that, "I can honestly say that even six months after that match, some Australian journalists who used to call me at all hours of the day and night when it suited them had still not spoken to me. Not that I was heartbroken at that state of affairs, but it brought home to me the way some of those guys react."
The harsh reaction to Campese's error did not subside. His brother Mario was attacked while leaving a Canberra nightclub shortly after the 1989 British Lions series. To protect Campese's frame of mind, his family concealed his brother's attacking for months to prevent him from becoming more emotionally upset.
In My Game Your Game Campese later confessed that:
Campese later spoke to Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones, a lawyer by profession, if he could take legal action over the ad. However, no legal proceedings eventuated.
Campo's Corner has been forever since linked with Campese's legacy of highs and lows. As a rugby player heavily into credit when weighing his positive contributions against his negative contributions to the game of rugby, people have tended to ponder upon his weaknesses; this is partly due to the strong memory of Campo's Corner.
Campese played in the one-off Bledisloe Cup Test in 1989 between Australia and New Zealand. The Test, which Australia lost 12-24, contains a Campese try. Australia's eightman Steve Tuynman took the ball from the back of a scrum and passed the ball to Nick Farr-Jones. Farr-Jones passed the ball to Campese, who stepped around John Kirwan causing him to slip over. Campese then passed to Farr-Jones who had looped him. As Farr-Jones and Campese were running down the sideline, and with Farr-Jones about to be tackled into touch, Campese pointed forwards signalling Farr-Jones to kick the ball forwards. Farr-Jones executed a grubber kick. Campese and All Blacks inside centre John Schuster were engaged in a sprint towards the ball. As Schuster tried to dive on the ball, Campese was able to kick the ball forwards and fall upon it.
In late 1989 Australia played a two-Test series against France. The two-Test series marked what would be the start of five consecutive Tests that Australia would play against France from 1989 to 1990.
In the first Test in Strasbourg, France suffered what was then its biggest defeat on its soil with a score of 32 to 15. It was also Australia's then highest score against France and their biggest ever winning margin against France.
Following a halftime score of 10-12, Australia scored three of its four tries in the second half. Campese scored the third of these four tries by recovering a high-kick from Nick Farr-Jones that wasn’t properly fielded by French winger Stéphane Weller. Campese was involved in Australia's fourth and final try by occupying French centre Philippe Sella with a goosestep, before delivering the final pass to Tim Horan who scored his second try in the Test.
Former Australian rugby union captain Nick Farr-Jones later described Australia's 1989 Test in Strasbourg as his favourite moment as an international rugby union player. Five Australian players made their Test debut: Jason Little, Brendon Nasser, Peter FitzSimons, Rod McCall, and Darren Junee (who played as a substitute). Australian hooker Phil Kearns, prop Tony Daly, and centre Tim Horan played their second Tests for Australia in that Test. The Test also marked the first time Austranian centre combination Tim Horan and Jason Little played in tandem with one another for Australia.
France won the second Test played in Lille 25 to 19. Campese played his 48th Test in this match.
In 1990 Campese was dropped from an Australian Test side for the first time since his debut for the Wallabies in New Zealand on the 1982 tour. Campese was omitted because he did not return early enough from Italy and therefore Australian selectors could not assess his form in a club match.
Campese returned for the second Test against France, won 48-31, in what Australian Rugby Union president Joe French described as the best Test match of rugby he had ever seen. The match was later described by Wallaby flanker Simon Poidevin (who did not play in the match) as "a breathtaking 48-31 victory" which "will go down in history as one of the finest ever played". Australia's points tally of 48 was a then record for the Wallabies against an International Rugby Board member country. The try count of six, which included a penalty try, was also the highest number of tries scored against a fellow IRB country."
Andrew Slack documented the Test in Noddy: The Official Biography of Michael Lynagh by writing that:
After the dreadfully desultory affair at the Sydney Football Stadium a fortnight before, the ten-try bonanza turned on by the two sides at Ballymore was a timely reminder that running rugby, with the emphasis on the players and not the whistle, was what the public wanted. Welsh referee Clive Norling had given only thirteen penalties, ensuring the continuity needed by sides with the attacking flair of France and Australia. A close study of the video replay shows that Norling made at least six major mistakes, five of which led to points being scored. Nevertheless he was hailed as a hero for his willingness to let the players be the stars.
Campese was involved in Australia’s second try of the game, which came from a refereeing mistake. In the early minutes of the Test, Nick Farr-Jones made a break near the half-way line. As he was chased down by Franck Mesnel, he hoisted a forward pass to Campese, running from fullback. Campese set himself to kick a high ball that tested French winger Lacombe. Australian prop Ewen McKenzie pressured Lacombe, the ball came loose and was ‘soccered’ forward by debutant centre Paul Cornish into the French in-goal, where he fell onto the ball to score a try.
David Campese was involved in a controversial refereeing decision that led to France's second try. Australia had an attacking scrum inside France’s 22. Michael Lynagh threw a loose pass that hit the ground. After Wallaby winger Ian Williams recovered the ball, he lofted an inside pass that was intercepted by France flyhalf Didier Camberabero who sprinted down the field. As Nick Farr-Jones chased Camberabero down in cover-defence, Camberabero offloaded a pass to French winger Lacombe. While Lacombe approached the Australian try-line, Campese was able to tackle him and successfully dislodge the ball before it was touched down. Referee Clive Norling was unsighted and awarded the try.
Perhaps the most well-documented moment of the Test came when French fullback Serge Blanco beat a Campese tackle to score a try. Simon Poidevin recalls that, "...the one memory which stands out is the amazing try scored by Serge Blanco. Taking the ball on his own line, the French captain sliced between Carozza and Little on the quarter line before swerving past Campese at halfway. Then Blanco beat Williams, Carozza and Campese in the run to the line to score one of the greatest individual tries of all time."
In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese selected Blanco at fullback in his greatest international XV of all-time team, writing that, "In 1990 we played France in a three-Test series at home before a tour of New Zealand, and Serge scored one of the greatest international tries during the second game in Brisbane. He carried the ball about 80m for the score and never once looked like he was getting out of second gear. Because of that languid running style, Blanco was deceptively quick, as we found out that afternoon..."
However, Campese would score the final try of the Test by running past Blanco. Australia had a scrum inside France's 22 in front of the goal-posts. Campese stood on the left-hand attacking side of the scrum. As Farr-Jones took the ball from the back of the scrum and started to run to the right, Campese followed Nick Farr-Jones. Nick Farr-Jones shaped to pass the ball to Australian eightman Tim Gavin, which held-up Blanco and French eightman Olivier Roumat. Nick Farr-Jones passed to Campese, who ran through a gap and past Blanco before evading Roumat coming across in cover defence, to score a try untouched.
In Noddy: The Authorised Biography of Michael Lynagh, Slack documented Clive Norling s reaction to Campese's final try, writing that, "As Lynagh lined up for goal, there was Norling nattering away in the background. 'Great swerve by Campese. Good advantage played there, boyo.'
In My Game Your Game Campese is reported saying of referee Clive Norling that:
...I had a lot of time for Norling as an international referee. The Welshman and New Zealander David Bishop would be the best I've seen during my years of Test match rugby. And the common factor linking Norling and Bishop was that both played the advantage rule very well, they had a real empathy for the game and its players, and they seemed to enjoy letting the game flow. Rarely could either official be accused of whistling for a stoppage prematurely... Norling was also one of the more flamboyant referees. The crowd always knew when he was out there. At the same time, he was a top drawer referee and perhaps could get away with a bit of the showmanship because his decisions were generally spot-on.
Campese played in the third Test against France in Sydney, which was lost 19-28. However, this Test marked a milestone for Campese. He became just the second person, after Simon Poidevin, to play 50 Test matches of rugby for Australia. He also capped this Test with the 36th try in Test match rugby.
Prior to Australia's 1990 three-Test tour to New Zealand, Australia played a one-off Test against the U.S.A, in which Campese played. The Test contains the only instance in Campese's career where he successfully completed a drop-goal. Campese also scored a try.
Campese played his 52nd Test for Australia in Australia's first Test against New Zealand in 1990, becoming the most capped Australian rugby player in history, surpassing Simon Poidevin's record of 51 Tests. Poidevin had made himself unavailable to play for Australia on Australia's 1990 tour to New Zealand. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese recalls that:
"Scotland had lost both Tests against the All Blacks earlier in the season but the second, in Auckland, had been close: the Blacks just sneaked home by 21-18. Perhaps that persuaded people that, in the light of our Test series win over the French, we were favourites. Whoever made public that sentiment did us scant favour. We were lulled into a false sense of security and yet, on the day, we were also intimidated because we didn't play our natural game, preferring instead to sit back and wait for them to come at us. Also, we didn't kick well that day, particularly Michael Lynagh. I hardly saw the ball, and when I did I was clobbered. Not feeling the ball in my hands destroys me anyway; I cannot take it. That day we were more afraid of making a mistake, worrying about who we were playing against, rather than getting on with our own game. And when we did run it we were totally predictable. The Blacks knew the ball would head out to me when it was shifted, and so whenever I got it they hammed me."
Playing on the left wing, Campese opposed All Blacks right-wing John Kirwan. Kirwan scored a try by running onto a cut-out pass sprinting at full pace, and out-running Campese to score a try in the corner.
Campese was selected at fullback for the second Test against New Zealand, replacing Greg Martin who was dropped following the first Test. All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick scored a try early in the Test, after All Blacks winger John Kirwan ran down the blindside, fended off Nick Farr-Jones, and was able to pass the ball inside to Fitzpatrick while being tackled by Campese. Campese responded later in the Test by passing the ball to Willie Ofahengaue for a try while being tackled by opposing All Blacks fullback Kieran Crowley. Ofahengaue powered over a Kirwan attempted tackle. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese remembers that:
"By the second Test at Eden Park, Auckland, we had improved a lot. It was a Test match we could have won, rather than should have won. Had our wing from Randwick, John Flett, touched the ball down when he reached the New Zealand line, we could have made 20-17 with the kick to come – considering we had come back from the dead, we were on a roll. But John lost the ball over the line and our hopes disappeared with that lost, bouncing ball. The Blacks, typically, made good their fortune by getting down to the other end and scoring the points which made such they clinced not only the Test but also the series. Another series against New Zealand had gone west; we were plunged into the ultimate depression."
Following Flett's missed opportunity, the All Blacks went downfield. John Kirwan ran down the blindside, and fended Campese off at fullback, before slipping a pass to New Zealand halfback Graeme Bachop, who slipped under a Campese tackle-attempt to score the final try of the Test.
Australia defeated New Zealand in the third Bledisloe Cup Test of 1990, ending New Zealand's undefeated streak of 50 games including 23 Tests. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that:
"We knew we could have played better in that Test [the second Test]. The fact that we had got so close to the Blacks proved we were close to them in ability, and when it came to the third Test in Wellington, we had a sense of giving everything to salvage our reputation. New Zealand had not won a Test match against Australia in Wellington since 1982. Not so long ago, you might think, but let me tell you, that is a lifetime by New Zealand's standards. And what happened that day really angered me. We played as though our lives depended on it; we tackled them as though they were demons; we knocked them back and we kept at them, mercilessly hounding them when they had possession and flattening them in some shuddering tackles. Not surprisingly, it won us the Test, but immediately apparent was the question: why the hell hadn't we played like that in the first two Tests?"
Prior to Australia's first international Test of 1991 against Wales, Campese played for the New South Wales Waratahs in a 71-8 victory over the touring Welsh team, in which he scored five tries.
Campese then played in Australia's first Test of the 1991 season against Wales, which was won by Australia 63-6. Campese scored one try in the Test. He would later write that it was "...a Test that resembled a training run for the Wallabies."
England toured Australia in 1991 for one Test. England were Five Nations champions having won the Grand Slam in 1991.
Campese scored two tries against England. With Australia leading 9-6, Campese's first try was scored "on the half-hour" when Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones executed a "box-kick" that exposed England's outside backs following a "22 drop-out." Campese received a favourable bounce and scored a try.
Campese scored his second try after some interplay between Australia's backrow and backs from the back of a scrum. From the back of a scrum, Nick Farr-Jones passed the ball to Tim Horan, while Australia's eightman Tim Gavin and Farr-Jones both looped Horan. Gavin received a pass from Horan and passed the ball to Farr-Jones, who occupied Campese's opposing winger, and passed the ball to an unmarked Campese, who scored the try.
Campese would later write that "...of all the Test matches I've played, this would be the closest to perfection any Australian side has reached." He further added that "technically we just couldn't be faulted. The Wallabies did nothing wrong the whole game... The moves we tried worked a charm, especially from the back of scrums, and everything just fell into place."
Australia defeated New Zealand in the first Bledisloe Cup Test of 1991, 21 points to 12. It was Campese's 57th Test for the Wallabies.
Australia lost the second Test of the 1991 Bledisloe Cup series to New Zealand 6-3 in a tryless match. Andrew Slack in Noddy: The Authorised Biography of Michael Lynagh wrote that, "Slippery conditions, wind and a pedantic referee made this game of rugby look like slow-moving chess." Wallabies' flyhalf Michael Lynagh kicked one goal from seven attempts, while All Black flyhalf Grant Fox kicked two goals from five attempts. Andrew Slack recorded that, "...Australia was awarded a penalty with fifty-seven seconds of the match left... Lynagh was two metres outside the quarter line and eight metres in from touch. Success would level the scores at 6-all. With the win in Sydney behind them, a draw would be good enough to snare the cup." Slack further reported that:
Scottish referee Ken McCarthy came under scrutiny following the Test for his performance. Wallaby flanker Simon Poidevin, in For Love Not Money, criticised McCarthy "for effectively destroying the Test as a spectacle." Poidevin recorded that, "There were no fewer than 33 penalties and too few (none, in fact, that come to mind) advantages played." Bob Dwyer in The Winning Way disagreed with Poidevin's criticisms of Scottish referee Ken McCarthy, writing that:
In My Game Your Game Campese remembered that, "...that loss in New Zealand also had a positive effect. We made a lot of mistakes and the All Blacks managed only a narrow win. I knew that day that we'd beat New Zealand whenever we came across them at the World Cup. It was the first time I could ever recall looking ahead and thinking we'd beat those guys."
David Campese once said, "I want to be remembered like Barry John in Wales. I want people to look back and say Campo did this, this and this." After the 1991 Rugby World Cup former Welsh rugby great Barry John said, "Like Pelé, he is associated with the very best and historic moments in sport; he has a special genius which shows an individual can still paint his own portrait and leave an indelible mark for all to treasure. The ingredients are all the same: stature, presence, personality, style and an immense belief in the God-given talents."
David Campese was named Player of the Tournament for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. He was the tournament's equal leading try scorer along with Jean-Baptiste Lafond with six. French rugby newspaper Midi-Olimpique named Campese number one in its World Rugby Top 10. Moreover, Campese was voted the 1991 Australian Society of Rugby Writers Player of the Year. Jack Pollard wrote that, "it was the genius of David Campese that made Australia world champions." Sports writer Peter Jenkins documented that "...winger David Campese produced sustained brilliance at the World Cup to be hailed, indisputably, as the greatest player in the world... Former World Cup winning Australian flanker Simon Poidevin described Campese as "our undoubted star", praised him for playing "the best he'd ever played", and stated that "He undoubtedly was the leading light in the whole tournament". He further called him "the best attacking player in the world" and "definitely the star performer in the World Cup". Former Wallaby and author Peter FitzSimons has said that "in attack... he was without peer..." Former Australian coach Alan Jones wrote that, "His performance at the 1991 World Cup was phenomenal – without him and the incredible Michael Lynagh, Australia would have sunk without a trace. Now Campese knows that wherever the history of rugby union is written, the name Campese will be in bold print." Former Australian flyhalf Mark Ella wrote that the 1991 Rugby World Cup was "the tournament that clearly established him as the best in the world." Australia's 1991 World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones has stated that without Campese Australia might not have won the World Cup.
Australia started the 1991 Rugby World Cup with a pool match against Argentina, in which Campese scored two tries and created a third.
In Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby rugby writer Peter Jenkins wrote that, "David Campese, from the outset of Australia's World Cup campaign, stamped the tournament with his genius. Two tries and a final pass for another, scored by centre Tim Horan, provided the safety net for a Wallaby side that failed to ignite on a team package basis. Campese, coolly leaning against a goalpost one minute, was shredding the Pumas' defence the next."
Spiro Zavos, in the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote that, 'Watching the winger beat three Argentinians to score his first try, then burst through explosively for a second... was reminiscent of Kenneth Tynan's tribute to the beauty of Greta Garbo: "What men see in women when they are drunk, they see in Garbo when they are sober." So too, rugby maneuvers which good players must only dream about doing in drunken stupors, David Campese does every time he plays.
Zavos continued to write that, "'Campo has now scored forty-two tries for the Wallabies in Tests (a Bradman-like record) and this knack of getting across the line, together with his skill in setting up tries, is one of the great - and still unacknowledged - strengths of the Wallabies."
Rugby writers Peter Meares and Maxwell Howell gave an account of Australia's first 1991 World Cup pool match in Wallaby Legends, "The Pumas made a game of it for the first twenty minutes, rarely allowing the Wallabies any possession. Whatever scraps came Australia's way were booted downfield by Michael Lynagh... Campese hadn't touched the ball. The body language said it all. He stood, hands on hips, legs crossed, leaning against a goalpost." Campese later recalled that "...I took a breather at one stage by leaning against a goalpost. I remember being asked how I could do such a thing during an important game. It was no big deal. Argentina had already had a few scrums on our line, and they were intent on getting a pushover try."
Meares and Howell documented Campese's first half performance against Argentina in Wallaby Legends by writing that, "Finally, a kick-through was fielded by Marty Roebuck. He counter-attacked, swerving out towards the left wing. He fed Campese – a step off the left foot, a step off the right and then a burst of blistering pace – he was through and over. Five minutes later and he was in again, this time chiming into the backline and scooting through a chink in the Pumas' defence.
Michael Blucher, biographer of Tim Horan and Jason Little, documented the second half of Australia's pool match against Argentina in Perfect Union, by writing that, "Midway through the second half, the Argentine Pumas had clawed back to within four points, trailing 20-16... The Wallabies posted a further 12 points in the closing stages to win by the comfortable through not entirely convincing margin of 32-19." Blucher further documented that, "Horan helped himself to two tries at Llanelli, the second five minutes from fulltime, an early dividend from his policy of following Campese... In the 75th minute of the Cup, when he slid over beside the right hand upright for his second try...
In For Love Not Money Simon Poidevin wrote that, "The Pumas played extremely well. The exuded confidence and as always their scrum proved very strong and dangerous. We took a while finding some combination and in the end got home 32-19 through some very slick backline play from David Campese and Tim Horan. Normally such a scoreline would be considered an easy day's work, but it wasn't, because most of our points came late in the game."
Meares and Howell concluded their review of Campese's performance in Wallaby Legends, writing that, "In the second half he sent Tim Horan over for another try and the Wallabies were home 32-19."
Campese played in Australia's second World Cup Pool Match against Western Samoa on the right wing, in which he became the first person to play 60 Test matches for Australia. Australia defeated Western Samoa by scoring three penalty goals (kicked by Michael Lynagh) to one penalty goal kicked by Western Samoa.
Campese scored the first try of the Test in the first half off the World Cup Quarter Final off a backline move "Originally code-named 'Stellenbosch' after the famous South African University and through the passage of time abbreviated to 'S'..." In Noddy Michael Lynagh explains that:
In Blindsided Lynagh recalls that, "...I'd get the ball from a lineout and pass to Timmy Horan, then he'd start to go across field with his centre partner, Jason Little, almost toward the corner flag. Then Campo could come from the open side and cut back late and counter-intuitively go inside, beating the defence, we hoped."
In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese recalls that:
Campese scored his second try off a move entitled "cut-two-loop", a move Australia also called in the final moments of the quarter-final to score a Test-winning try. In The Winning Way Bob Dwyer recalls that, "Australia had scored a try with exactly the same move, in exactly the same position on the field, earlier in the same half, and on this occasion Campese scored the try as planned."
With five minutes left in the Test, a defensive lapse from Campese led to an Irish try which gave them an 18-15 lead. In On a Wing and a Prayer Campese writes that, "...Ireland suddenly set the whole of Dublin roaring as Gordon Hamilton, their flanker, stormed away for a try. I was partly my fault; I slipped and failed to kill the loose ball one of their players had kicked through. It was picked up and Hamilton came up like an express train to run 40 yards to score."
In Blindsided Lynagh recalls that, "We kept nudging ahead in the game, doing just enough, until a little mistake somewhere in defence when we were recovering a kick-through allowed the Irish flanker Gordon Hamilton to go over in the corner with four minutes left."
In the final minutes of the Test, Australia trailing 15-18, Australia kicked off long. Irish scrum-half Rob Saunders "sliced his kick badly", about "fifteen metres" "inside their twenety-two." Australia won the ensuing line-out. Lynagh writes that he called a play that brought Campese back towards the forwards:
Australia "got the put-in to the scrum on the left-hand side of the field" Lynagh called "cut-two-loop" one more time. In Noddy Andrew Slack writes that:
In The Winning Way World Cup-winning Australian coach Bob Dwyer described the final moments of the Test between Australian and Ireland by recalling that:
Lynagh scored the Test-winning try, and Australia won 19-18.
Campese's performance in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final has been described by former Australian coach Bob Dwyer as Campese's signature Test in his career. In an ABC documentary entitled The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby Dwyer stated that, "I must say that throughout the 1991 World Cup, and this semi-final match in particular, Campo was a standout performer. We all know what a great player he was over such a long period of time, but I’m sure that his first-half performance that day has never been beaten."
Prior to the start of the Test, Campese did not stand in-front of the haka, instead opting to practice his kicking downfield.
Australia defeated New Zealand 16-6 in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final, in which Campese was a decisive factor. Rugby writer Philip Derriman records that, "David Campese made two stunning interventions in the play which produced the only tries of the match and thus were responsible for Australia's 16-6 win."
Rugby writer Peter Jenkins records that, "Campese scored the first Wallaby try in the 12th minute [Note: It was the 6th minute], drifting off the blind wing into the five-eighth position to take the first pass from the ruck. He then angled across field to turn his archrival, John Kirwan, inside out before touching down. In the 35th minute he gathered a chip-kick from Lynagh, avoided one defender and drew two others before lobbing a basketball pass, without looking, over his right shoulder for centre Horan to score."
In The Winning Way Bob Dwyer writes that:
"...our first try came from a win at the back of the lineout... John Eales took the ball at number-six in the lineout and Nick Farr-Jones put Michael Lynagh over the advantage line, after which David Campese ran from the blind wing. Lynagh must have got seven metres over the advantage line, which is remarkable for a five-eighth, and this threw the All Blacks' defence into disarray.
Campese was brilliant. He scored the try running across the face of the defence. There were plenty of defenders in front of him, but because of the angle at which Campese was running they were all afraid to chase him, lest he gave a scissors pass to one of the Australians running outside him, or cut back inside himself. So each of the defenders played safe by making sure he had his own zone of defence covered, but Campese kept running out of their zones, one after another. Finally, only John Kirwan was left, and he allowed Campese to turn him around. I suppose this was a mistake by Kirwan, but it did not matter anyway, because Campese had Phil Kearns and Rob Egerton in support, each of whom would otherwise have scored. Nevertheless, the fact Campese ended up scoring outside
Kirwan was remarkable."
In Perfect Union, Michael Blucher described Campese's first try thus:
"In a ruck 20m out from New Zealand's line, Lynagh was trapped... so Campese, ever in search of opportunity, stepped into flyhalf.
As he took the pass from Farr-Jones, the maverick winger... ran across field.
Not just across field, but at 45 degrees across field, back around Richard Loe, past Sean Fitzpatrick, away from Grant Fox, leaving just one brick in the wall - winger John Kirwan. Afraid to take his eye off Campese, Kirwan started running backwards - four, five, six steps before speed made it unfeasible. He swiveled desperately around to his right, but as he did, Campese jinked left and flattened the accelerator, gliding in behind him to dive over in the corner. If he'd been a sufer, Campese would just have ridden the perfect tube, popping out the end a split second before the wave crashed on top of him. The man's sense of timing was impeccable."
Dwyer continues in The Winning Way to describe Campese's second famous intervention by writing that:
"The try Australia scored towards the end of the first half was relayed endlessly on television and, I predict, will be shown again and again in years to come. It was Lynagh, running towards the blind side, who set things in motion. Noticing that the New Zealand backs were lined up flat, he chipped the ball into the gap behind the winger. The New Zealand fullback, Kieran Crowley, was regarded by the Australians as being a little slow off the mark, and no doubt Lynagh had this in mind when he chose to kick in front of him. Campese was bearing down on the ball, and I think Crowley was undecided whether to go in for the ball or wait for the bounce and try to stop Campese. His slight hesitation gave Campese the fraction of a second he needed to scoop up the ball and flash past him. Campese's running then was superb. He drew two defenders and had a third one chasing him, all of whom thought he was a threat. Campese saw Tim Horan behind him out of the corner of his eye and flipped the ball back over his shoulder. Horan did well to catch it before going on to score."
Greg Growden in the Sydney Morning Herald documented Campese's performance by writing that, "Campese scored possibly the most exhilarating solo try of the tournament, and inspired another team try which was possibly even better, to prove he is the best attacking player in the world, and definitely the best competitor of this World Cup. Campese is the Pelé of world Rugby."
In For Love Not Money Simon Poidevin reiterated almost identical words to Greg Growden, by writing that:
"Campo really left a huge imprint on that semi-final. In the sixth minute he scored the most exhilerating [sic?
] solo try of the tournament, and later created an even better team try, to show he was the best attacking player in the world and definitely the star performer in the World Cup. The memory of Campo angling across field and bomboozling Mark Carter, Sean Fitzpatrick and John Kirwan will remain forever. This was then topped in the 34th minute by his incredible one-handed pickup from a clever Lynagh kick, a wiggle to offset John Timu and then an inspired flick over his right shoulder to the brilliant Horan to give us a decisive edge."
In Running Rugby Mark Ella wrote of Campese's pass to Tim Horan that, "Campese's over-the-shoulder pass to Tim Horan in the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand in 1991 must be ranked as close to the ultimate of its type. I cannot think of another player in the world who could have managed it." A description of Campese's try is further illustrated in the same book, which states that:
Following the Test All Blacks coach Alex Wyllie remarked, "There's always Campo, and when you've got a player like that in your team you always know probably something is going to happen. He did it again – he just pulled that one out. An individual like that: one day he could probably blow it, but the other four days he could make it. It was just unfortunate he made it against us."
Following the tournament former Irish fly-half Tony Ward said of Campese that, "He is the Maradona, the Pelé of international Rugby all rolled into one. You cannot put a value on his importance to our game. He is a breath of fresh air and I think perhaps the greatest player of all time." Ward continued:
Clem Thomas of The Observer wrote following the Test that, "it will always be remembered as Campese's match..." In 2013 former New Zealand rugby player Sean Fitzpatrick wrote that, "One man can never win a match on his own but he came as close to that as is possible with his display in the 1991 World Cup semi-final. We were beaten by half-time." British rugby writer Stephen Jones added, "If I had to put together the greatest rugby match I've ever seen I'd have the first half of Australia versus New Zealand in '91 in Dublin…"
Following England's 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over Scotland in a tryless Test, Campese led a media campaign designating England as a boring rugby team. Campese said that if he played for England, he would insist on playing the flyhalf position because it would be the only way he could touch the ball. Campese is quoted as saying, 'I wouldn't play for England even if you paid me' and 'Playing that sort of boring stuff is a good way to destroy the image of the game. They're all so scared of losing over here they won't try anything.' He further added that 'England would never beat us in the World Cup because they are a bunch of Toffs, and we are convicts.'
Australia won the 1991 World Cup Final by beating England 12-6. Campese did not have much "ball possession" in the final, as evidenced by the fact that Australian flyhalf Michael Lynagh only touched the ball 17 times in the Test, as opposed to English flyhalf Rob Andrew, who touched the ball 41 times. However, four moments involving David Campese are often recorded in reports of the final.
Campese came close to scoring a try in the early stages of the first half of the final. Bob Dwyer recalls in The Winning Way that, "We were deprived of one try when a ball which Campese chipped ahead after making a break down the right wing bounced backwards and touched the referee, who consequently had to call a scrum." Dwyer also wrote that, "If the ball had not taken an eccentric bounce and hit the referee, who was therefore obliged to set a scrum, this would certainly have resulted in a try."
Australia scored their only try of the 1991 World Cup Final in the 26th minute. Campese's "chasing" played an indirect part in the lead-up to Australia's first try. Simon Poidevin recalls in For Love Not Money that, "He [Tim Horan] took a bomb near his own line, spun out of the defence and sprinted 60m before kicking ahead..." Bob Dwyer records that, "Tim Horan had chipped ahead in a marvellous counter-attack from his own 22, and Campese had chased the ball and forced a lineout in the corner." Australia scored moments later off a rolling maul. Dwyer noted that, "The key to the whole exercise was Horan's grubber kick. If it had gone into touch, England would have had the put-in."
Campese was involved in the biggest controversy of the World Cup Final in the 69th minute. English flanker Peter Winterbottom attempted a pass to Campese's opposing winger Rory Underwood, who at that stage "may have had an overlap," when Campese knocked the ball forward. The referee ruled it a deliberate knock-on and awarded England a penalty." The English hooker, Brian Moore, thought the referee should have awarded a penalty try. Moore was reported after the Test to have said, "[Campese] sets himself up as the saviour of rugby. Yet when it comes down to it he's as cynical as anyone. I wouldn't criticise Campese except he called me mad as a hatter earlier this week." Moore writes in Beware of the Dog: Rugby's Hard Man Reveals All that, ‘I have no issue with what Campese did; I would have done the same, and he got away with it. The point I make about what he did is that, as he has been shown to be as cynical as the rest of us, I don’t now want to hear lectures from him about the spirit of the game.’
Australian flanker Simon Poidevin records that, "English critics claimed later that a penalty try should have been awarded, but there was no certainty that Underwood would have scored with our defence converging on him as fast as they were." Australian coach Bob Dwyer later added that, "He [the referee] could easily have ruled that the ball was simply passed into Campese's extended arm and that Campese made no deliberate attempt to hit it." Dwyer further added his opinion that the decision did not cost England the final writing that, "Australia would still have been ahead by 12-9, and I see no good reason to believe that England would have improved on that."
In On a Wing and a Prayer David Campese defended himself by stating that, "...I did not deliberately try to slap the ball down when Winterbottom attempted to pass to Underwood in the second half. I was just worried about stopping Winterbottom and I tried to get man and ball by wrapping my arms around him as well as the ball."
In the final stages of the final, Campese was involved in a backline movement that nearly led to an English try. Bob Dwyer records of, "...an unfortunate decision by the Australian backs to run the ball when the backline consisted only of Marty Roebuck, who had moved into five-eighth, Michael Lynagh at inside-centre and David Campese outside him." Dwyer further added that, "Lynagh, having looped Campese well behind the advantage line, lost possession in a tackle, and the England players set off for the try line."
Australian Rugby writer Philip Derriman records that, "...the English broke into the open with the ball well inside Australia's half and looked all but certain to score until the player in possession, Rob Andrew, was brought down in a magnificent diving tackle by John Eales, coming across in cover defence."
Following the 1991 Rugby World Cup former Irish flyhalf Tony Ward said that, "Although the finale is disappointing in terms of entertainment, there's no doubt in anyone's mind that Australia has been the best team and Campese is the outstanding player." Following the Test Australian captain Nick Farr-Jones said of Campese that, 'If it wasn't for Campo we would not have been here today.'
Scotland toured Australia in 1992 for a two-Test series. Campese scored two tries in Australia's first Test against Scotland, won by Australia 27-12. Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold documents that:
"Coach Bob Dwyer had urged his players to 'get more fire in your bellies' after they went to half-time behind 9-7. Two minutes after the break, winger Paul Carozza scored after lead-up work from fellow winger David Campese, debutant flanker David Wilson and Lynagh."
While Australia won the second Test against Scotland 37-13, Campese left the field due to injury, to be replaced by Peter Jorgensen.
On 15 August 1992 South Africa played a rugby Test against New Zealand (lost 24-27), which was their first Test at international level since the International Rugby Board (IRB) banned South Africa from playing international Test-level rugby due to apartheid boycotts. One week later on 22 August 1992 South Africa played the World Champion Wallabies.
In the Test against South Africa, Campese became the first Australian to play 70 Test matches and he became the first rugby player to score 50 tries.
In My Game Your Game Campese recalls that:
In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese writes that
Peter FitzSimons documented in Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Biography that:
In Full Time: A Coach's Memoir Bob Dwyer remembers that:
In October/November 1992, Campese was a member of the 10th Wallabies for the 1992 Australia rugby union tour of Europe. Campese was frequently rested throughout the tour due to ongoing injury concerns. Campese missed most of Australia’s provincial games. However, he played in both Tests on tour, against Ireland and Wales, and the traditional tour-closing game against the Barbarians. Campese was also the Wallabies top try-scorer on tour with four tries (despite only playing six games on tour).
Australia endured an injury-plagued tour. Wallaby captain Michael Lynagh suffered a badly dislocated shoulder in Australia's victory over Ireland, loosehead props Tony Daly and Cameron Lillicrap and centre Anthony Herbert were required to fly back to Australia due to injuries, and Australian second-rower John Eales suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a year in the game against Llanelli. In addition, Australia's two wingers David Campese and Paul Carozza were both forced to sit out of training sessions "nursing niggling injury concerns." Australia came under scrutiny following losses in provincial games to Munster, Swansea, and Llanelli - matches in which Campese did not play.
Australian team management selected a full-strength side, including Campese, for Australia's first touring match against Leinster (won 35-11). Leinster scored the first try in the early stages of the match, after Campese failed to properly tackle his opposite winger Niall Woods, allowing Woods to score a try. However, after the Wallabies trailed 6-8 at half-time, Campese scored two tries in the second half - one off a Tim Horan scissors' pass and the second off a Michael Lynagh inside-pass from a set-play. Campese did not play in Australia's second match on tour, a famous 19-22 loss to Munster. Campese returned to the Test side for their third match on tour against Ulster (won 35-11). In the Wallaby's final match prior to their first Test on tour against Wales, Campese came off the bench in the second half of Australia's 14-6 victory over Connacht.
Following Australia’s Test victory over Ireland, Campese was rested and not named in Australia’s next five provincial matches prior to the following Test against Wales - against Swansea (lost 6-21), Wales B (won 24-11), Neath (won 16-9), Llanelli (lost 9-13), and Monmouthshire (won 19-9).
Following Australia's victory over Wales in their second anf final Test of the tour, Campese did not play in the Wallabies' only provincial game before their final match on tour against the Barbarians, against Welsh Students (won 37-6).
Campese played in his final Test of 1992 in a 23-6 victory over Wales. Campese scored a try after gathering a kick-through by Australian outside-centre Jason Little and sprinting down the sideline for a try. In David Campese, British journalist Stephen Jones documented: “Campese scoring against Wales at Cardiff in 1992, sprinting down the right wing in front of the North Stand to finally kill off a brave Welsh performance with a try…" The Official Website for EBBW Vale RFC documents that, “Campese ended the game in dramatic fashion, scoring a try after a 60 yard run, his 52nd in a record Test total of 64.”
Campese commenced his 1993 Test season with the Wallabies, scoring two tries in their 52-14 victory over Tonga.
Early in the first Test against South Africa, Campese was involved in a scuffle with Springboks Pieter Muller and James Small.
Australia led South Africa 9-0 after 16 minutes following three penalty goals kicked by Marty Roebuck. However, in the final 10 minutes of the first half, Springbok inside centre Heinrich Füls executed a kick, forcing Campese to run back and field it, while he and Springbok outside centre Pieter Muller gave chase. Campese was unable to field the ball, and instead slipped over the ball about a metre from the Australian try-line, allowing Muller to gather the ball and score the try.
In the documentary of Campese's career, Campese: Rugby's My Life, Campese confessed that he perhaps "tried too hard" in this Test, trying to compensate for his early mistake.
Following Campese's first Test performance, Alec Evans, the assistant coach of Australia's 1984 Grand Slam side, went public suggesting that Campese should be dropped from the Australian side.
Campese recovered from his first Test performance to help Tim Horan score a try in the second Test. Australia had a scrum in their own territory and Campese was in position for a clearing kick. Campese instead opted to run and dummied past South African openside flanker Francois Pienaar. Campese's run brought play into South African territory. Campese then flicked a pass along the ground, described by Australian rugby commentator David Fordham as an 'ill-discipled pass', that Australian eightman Tim Gavin recovered. Two phases later Campese took a pass from Nick Farr-Jones in the first-receiver position, launched a high kick that his opposite winger Jacques Olivier wasn't able to field. The ball took a fortuitous bounce, and Australian inside centre Tim Horan was able to chase the ball down and fall upon it to score a try.
In My Game Your Game David Campese is reported saying that, "When I think back over my Test career, it seems most of my best performances have been outside Australia, such as the World Cup of 1991 in Britain, the Wallaby Tour of the UK in 1988, and the Grand Slam trip of 1984. There have been some good moments at home, such as the third Test against South Africa at the Sydney Football Stadium in 1993..."
During the second half of the third Test Australia had formed a rolling maul in their own half. Nick Farr-Jones (playing his last Test for Australia) linked with Campese for the last time in their representative careers. Farr-Jones ran the blind-side and passed the ball to Campese, who ran past Springbok scrumhalf Robert du Preez. Campese ran along the sideline, bringing play into South African territory. Campese then gave an inside pass to Farr-Jones in support, who in turn passed the ball inside to Tim Gavin in support. Gavin ran the ball into contact. The ball came back to Farr-Jones from the ruck, and he handed it on to Phil Kearns, who gained metres for Australia with a strong run. As the next stage of play developed, Campese had re-positioned himself in the centres where he took a pass, made a tiny break, and lofted a pass over several South African players to Tim Horan in support, who went on to score a try.
Jack Pollard in Australian Rugby: The Game and its Players reported that, "A flash of brilliance from Campese in setting up Horan for a try after Scott Bowen sent Campese into a gap came at a crucial moment. Horan's try took Australia to a 19-5 lead." Matt Burke in Matthew Burke: A Football Life recounts that, "We ended up winning the game 19-12 - and I was probably only one pass short of scoring a debut Test match try. David Campese put a pass over to Tim Horan, who carried it on and scored in the corner."
Campese received the man of the match award for his performance.
In 1993 Campese toured with the Wallabies for their 1993 Australia rugby union tour, which included a Test against Canada and two Tests against France.
Campese scored three tries in Australia's first Test of their 1993 Australia rugby union tour against Canada.
Prior to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Australia played a two-Test series against Argentina which was won 2-0.
Rugby writer Peter Jenkins in Wallaby Gold: The History of Australian Test Rugby documented that, "The Pumas' tackling was also committed, if sometimes questionable, but they struggled to contain the pace and slickness of a Wallaby backline led by Lynagh, whose deputies included centre Jason Little and winger David Campese."
Campese scored two tries in the Wallabies' second Test against the Pumas in 1995. Following this Test Campese would go scoreless for his next six Tests, until a Test against Canada 14 months later.
Campese played in three Tests at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. England defeated Australia in the quarter-finals. Campese would later state in Campo: Still Entertaining that, "I know David Campese had an ordinary tournament."
Campese played in Australia's first pool match against South Africa in Cape Town. In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese reflected that, "I was not anywhere near my best and missed a crucial tackle on my opposite winger Pieter Hendriks, allowing him to score. We had been ahead 13-9 at the time, with Lynagh scoring the opening try of the tournament in the 32rd minute of the match. Five minutes later the Springboks had snatched the lead from us when Hendriks beat me on the outside, raised his fist in triumph, and scored in the left corner. We never led again."
Campese further wrote that, "In the World Cup match against South Africa, I kicked the ball three or four times when I could have run. Maybe I was worried my speed was going, and that was affecting my confidence, especially to counterattack."
English revenge for the final defeat came in the next World Cup when they beat the Wallabies in a nail-biting quarter-final. After the match, Campo somehow found himself on the same bus as all the English and endured some ribbing.
Following the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Campese was dropped from the Australian team for their first Bledisloe Cup Test match against New Zealand in Auckland. Following an injury to Australian fullback Matthew Burke in the first Bledisloe Cup Test of 1995 in Auckland, the Australian selectors picked Rod Kafer to take Burke's place in the Australian team. Kafer then suffered a broken leg during a training session. Campese was then recalled to a training session with the Wallabies, with the information that if Matthew Burke proved his fitness, he would not play in the second Bledisloe Cup Test. Burke recovered from his injury to play in the second Bledisloe Cup Test. However, another injury to Australian centre Daniel Herbert led to Campese's selection on the bench in the second Bledisloe Cup Test of 1995. In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese wrote that "for some reason, I was meant to play that weekend against the All Blacks."
The second Bledisloe Cup Test of 1995 marked the first and only time in Campese's rugby career where he started a Test on the bench. Australian winger Damien Smith suffered an injury in the first half of the second Bledisloe Cup Test of 1995, allowing Campese to play his 92nd Test for Australia, coming off the bench as a substitute in the second half.
This Test marked the first time Campese would oppose All Black winger Jonah Lomu. Former Australian fullback Matthew Burke recalls in Matthew Burke: A Football Life that: "Jonah was just devastating, the real killer among the game's ball-runners at the time. The only chance of stopping a man of his power is to take him low – and it was in that Test that David Campese... chopped Lomu down with a bootlace tackle. It was a dead-set one in a million event. Other times, Lomu ran around or over his rival winger. But on this occasion Campo felled him first time, later making the point coolly that it wasn't so difficult to stop the big fella."
In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese reflects that, "As chance would have it, Jonah got the ball in the opening stages of the second half and ran straight at me… I think I shut my eyes, but I tackled him. Later in the half he pushed me aside to score a try, but I could at least claim to have cut him down once." Following the Test Campese and Lomu met in the changing rooms and exchanged their jerseys. Lomu gave Campese his number 11 jersey while Campese gave Lomu his number 16 jersey. Campese's 92nd Test marked the last Test he would play in the amateur era.
In 1996 Bob Dwyer was replaced as coach of the Australian rugby union team by Greg Smith. In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese writes that, "It gave me some early hope of forcing my way back. I don’t know for sure that Bob had written me off as a Test player. But judging by those closing months of the 1995 season, it would not have been too promising for me, I suspect, had he held on to the Wallaby post."
Regarding his decision to continue playing Test level rugby Campese writes that, "In the end, my decision to play on was taken with one overriding goal in mind. I wanted to end my Test career on a high note. Not with an appearance off the bench in a Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks." He further adds that, "the prospect of playing 100 Tests had enormous appeal too… But, to be perfectly honest, the initial aim was just to get back in the starting side." Campese was selected for the Australian team for the first eight Tests of their 1996 season, before being dropped following his 100th Test against Italy. He would play one more Test for Australia against Wales in the Wallabies final Test of the year.
Campese played his first professional Test match for Australia in the first Test against Wales in 1996. In Campo: Still Entertaining, Campese recalls the first Test against Wales by writing that:
Campese scored his 64th and final international Test try in Australia's 74-9 defeat of Canada. It was Campese's first Test try in 14 months.
Campese was a member of the 11th Wallabies to tour the United Kingdom. The 1996 Australia rugby union tour in Europe was Campese's final rugby tour before his retirement from international Test rugby. While the tour contained Tests against Italy, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Campese only played against Italy and Wales. The Australian team was heavily criticised for its performances. However, the tour remains the only time Australia had won every match on a tour to Europe that included provincial matches.
Australia's first Test of the 1996 Tour to Europe against Italy marked David Campese's 100th international Test. He became the second person, after French centre Philippe Sella, to achieve the milestone. The Test took place two days after Campese's 34th birthday in Padova, where Campese had played rugby in Italy for three years from 1984 to 1986. The Test took place close to his father's birthplace, Vicenza. In Campo: Still Entertaining Campese recalls that, "Unfortunately, they were not treated to vintage performances, by myself or the rest of the Wallabies. The Italians got stuck into us and, in some respects, we were lucky to get away with a 40-18 scoreline."
Australia's Tim Horan was moved to the wing for the Test against Italy and scored a try. Campese then missed national selection for the next Test against Scotland, with coach Greg Smith opting to continue to play Tim Horan on the wing and play Joe Roff in Campese's place. This marked only the third time in Campese's 101-Test career that he was dropped from the Australian rugby team.
Campese also did not achieve national selection for the Test against Ireland. Australian coach Greg Smith opted to return Tim Horan to the inside centre position and play Jason Little on the wing in Campese's place.
In a midweek match against Munster, Campese played what he later described as "one of my better performances for quite some time, scoring two tries, setting up another and perhaps defending like I’d never defended before." Following this performance, Campese was selected for Australia's final Test of the 1996 Australia rugby union tour.
Campese was recalled to the Australian side for their final Test of the 1996 European tour, his 101st Test and his final Test appearance playing for the Wallabies. Australian coach Greg Smith returned Jason Little to the outside centre position and situated Campese on the right wing while Joe Roff occupied the left wing. Australia led Wales 18-6 at halftime. In the second half Welsh outside centre Gareth Thomas scored a try after intercepting a pass from George Gregan. Following this Welsh flyhalf Jonathan Davies kicked two penalties to give Wales a 19-18 lead. Australia's Matt Burke landed a penalty to give Australia a 21-19 lead, before Australia scored a penalty try in the final moments of the Test to win 28-19.
Campese played his last match for Australia against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Prior to the match Campese was offered the special privilege of playing for the Barbarians in his final match. However, Australian team management rejected the idea. Campese scored a try in his last game after taking a pass from Australian hooker Michael Foley and slipping under an attempted tackle from South African flyhalf Joel Stransky. Following the game, Campese completed a lap of honour and was afforded a standing ovation from crowd, to bring an end to his international career.
Throughout his rugby sevens career, Campese made 12 appearances at the Hong Kong Sevens (1983-1990, 1993–94, 97-98), during which he played in three victorious Australian campaigns ('83, '85 & '88), and winning the Leslie Williams Award for Player of the Tournament in 1988. On 16 March 2015 the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) announced Australia's David Campese as the fifth member of 'The Hong Kong Magnificent Seven', the HKRFU's commemorative campaign to recognise the seven most formative players to have played in the past 40 Years of Sevens in Hong Kong in 2015. Campese was honoured alongside of Jonah Lomu, Waisale Serevi, Eric Rush, Christian Cullen, Ben Gollings and Zhang Zhiqiang.
Former Australian rugby player and sevens coach Michael O'Connor placed Campese is his 'Best Ever Aussie Sevens team', writing that:
In 1983 Campese made his debut for the Australian Sevens team at the Hong Kong Sevens, in a team containing Peter Faulk (manager), John Maxwell (captain-coach), Mark Ella, Glen Ella, Brendan Moon, Peter Lucas, Gary Pearce, Chris Roche and Qele Ratu. The tournament took place in what has been described as “some of the wettest conditions ever recorded in Hong Kong in March.” Australia began by defeating Malaysia (44-0), Japan (42-0) and the Solomon Island (26-0). Australia then defeated Tonga 12-6 in the quarter-final, Western Samoa 16-0 in the semi-finals, and Fiji 14-4 in the final. Australia scored 192 points and conceded only 18 in its seven matches at the 1983 Hong Kong Sevens.
In 1984 Australia were eliminated by Canada from the Hong Kong Sevens in controversial circumstances. Australia and Canada finished level in the first pool. Both sides had scored the same number of tries and goals and Australia was eliminated on the toss of a coin. Since then the rules have been changed to allow for extra time when teams finish level, and the first team to score eliminates the other side.
In 1985 Campese won his second Hong Kong Sevens tournament – Australia’s third tournament victory overall – in a 24-10 victory over Public School Wanderers.
In late 1985 Campese was embroiled in controversy when he, Glen Ella and Roger Gould decided to participate in a sevens tournament in South Africa. At the time, international sports people were asked to support opposition to South Africa's apartheid regime by boycotting tour there. Campese's move drew criticism from Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
In 1986 Australia made it to the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Sevens, but were defeated by the French Barbarians 20-14, who went on to lose the final to New Zealand 32-12.
In May 1986 Campese played for the Australian sevens team at the Sport Aid Sevens tournament at Cardiff. Australia easily defeated Ireland before going on to lose to England after Glen Ella threw a pass that went over Campese's head and was intercepted by England for a try.
In 1987 Campese captained the Australian side for the first time at the Hong Kong Sevens with Alan Jones as coach. Australia faced Fiji in the semi-final, in which they fell behind 0-14 after five minutes, before going on to lose the game 8-14.
In 1988 Campese embarked on perhaps his most successful campaign at the Hong Kong Sevens, winning his third and final Hong Kong Sevens tournament with the Australian side, and being awarded the Leslie Williams Award for Player of the Tournament. Former Australian captain Andrew Slack, author of Noddy: The Authorised Biography of Michael Lynagh, wrote that:
Under the captaincy of Lynagh and with David Campese in vintage form, Australia beat New Zealand 13-12 in the final of the 1988 Hong Kong Sevens. When Lynagh received the silver symbol of sevens supremacy from Hong Long bank taipan Williams Purves, the Royal Hong Kong Police bank struck up ‘Waltzing Matilda’, but they might have stopped the drums and trumpets after a few bars. No one heard them anyway as all but the most rabid anti-Australians in the twenty-thousand-strong throng took up the singing. It was stirring stuff. In the Australian
on 28 March Dwyer used the occasion to proclaim the start of a new era in Australian rugby.
In 1989 Australia made it to the final of the Hong Kong Sevens, but were defeated in the final by New Zealand, 10-22.
During 1990 Campese participated in the Melrose Sevens in Scotland playing for Randwick, after the Melrose Rugby Club accorded Campese’s Randwick Rugby Club the singular honour of an invitation to its one hundredth Melrose Sevens. Twenty clubs took part, and Randwick were one of four guest teams including Racing Club of Paris, Harlequins and London Scottish from outside of Scotland. Randwick’s squad of ten players were: Gavin Boneham, David Campese, Michael Cheika, Anthony Dwyer, Mark Ella, John Flett, John Maxwell (Captain / Coach), Acura Niuqila, Darren Phillips and Lloyd Walker. John Howard was the manager and Stuart Wheeler, the assistant manager.
Campese was Randwick’s top points scorer with 44 of its 92 points. The Herald of Scotland reported that Campese scored seven tries and nine conversions, which included scoring all of Randwick’s points against Melrose. He was later praised for giving “one of the most dominant performances in tournament history.” Randwick won their first match against Glawgow High Kelvinside 30-0, before defeating Edinburgh Academical Football Club 20-6 in their second match
Randwick then defeated Melrose in the semi-final 16-15. Campese opened the scoring of the semi-final with a try that he converted to give Randwick a 6-0 lead. The scores were level at halftime 6-6. Campese scored first for Randwick in the second half with a try that he again converted to make the score 12-6. However, Melrose leveled the scores again, and with two minutes remaining Melrose captain Craig Chalmers kicked a penalty goal for a 15-12 lead. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that, “Randwick looked briefly flustered but Campese, skipping through on a 30m run, rescued the game with 60 seconds remaining, to send the Australians through 16-15.” Graham Law in The Scotsman reported on the final moments of the semi-final and wrote that, "Randwick secured ball from the kick-off and when Melrose infringed at a ruck full-time had been reached but, correctly, referee Jim Fleming allowed play to continue and Walker released Campese from nearly halfway. Chalmers, with the first engagement, and Purves both made tackles but Campese, now domiciled in Italy, seemed to expand and aquaplaned to the goal-line. It was no-side and Keith Robertson’s men were out. The Sunday Herald of Scotland wrote that, "No-one else in the tournament would have had the pace and verve to squeeze in at the right corner to deny the hosts..." Following the tournament Campese admitted that, ““If it had not been wet, I would not have made that try against Melrose.”
Campese’s Randwick side defeated Kelso in the final 28-6 in front of 20,000 spectators. Campese scored a try and converted two John Flett tries in the final. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that, "Campese, throughout the day benefiting from his telepathic understanding with Mark Ella, scored an outstanding, individual try from his own 22, Ella converting for a 12-4 lead."
The Sunday Herald of Scotland wrote that, "Most of all, however, the Australians had the threatening presence of David Campese. Whether lying wide or rallying in retreat, Campese was the spearhead. An inch of space to run was gleefully accepted, and over the tournament, he scored 46 points, with seven tries and nine conversions, including all of Randwick's points against Melrose."
In the tribute book David Campese, Scottish rugby commentator Bill McLaren documented Campese’s time at the Melrose Sevens by writing that:
To see David Campese in seven-a-side play was another delight. The abbreviated version seemed to be made for him. Of course it was invented near my home area of the Scottish border country at Melrose and there was massive interest in the appearance of David Campese in a Randwick squad who were special guests in 1990 at the ‘Blue Riband’ of the spring sevens series, the Melrose tournament. Came the day and the rain simply teemed down on a pitch that was treacherous to say the least. The local players rubbed their hands in gleeful anticipation. Here was the weather and ground conditions to which they were accustomed and in which they could revel. Such hazardous conditions would cut the famous Wallaby down to size. The Borderers would show the great man how it should be done. Some hope! He was the star of the show, the tournament’s top try-scorer and points-scorer with 44 of Randwick’s 92 points. Not only that but he was like a duck in water, completely at home, fizzing about in the ‘glaur’, the Border name for cloying mud, as to the manner born. He had been preparing himself for water sports having previously asked that his Melrose billet should have a swimming pool! He saved Randwick from semi-final defeat with a typical touch of Campese magic. Randwick were 15-12 in arrears to Melrose with time almost up when he received the ball at halfway and took off like an inebriated skater. Some metres short of the goal line he produced a dive that would have dome credit to an Olympic swimmer and slithered his way to a momentous try that took Randwick to the final in which they beat the renowned sevens artistes from Kelso who included the famous ‘White Shark’, John Jeffrey. David admitted afterwards that he was grateful for the rain and mud: ‘I wouldn’t have scored that try on a dry day because I would not have been able to aquaplane into the corner.’
In 1994 Campese captained Australia for the Hong Kong Sevens, with Glen Ella acting as Australian coach. The team contained Tim Horan, Jason Little, David Wilson, Ilie Tabua, George Gregan and Ryan Constable. Australia easily won their round-robin stages on the first day, narrowly defeated Samoa in the quarter final, comprehensively defeated Fiji in the semi-final, before losing the final to New Zealand 22-10.
In 1997, Campese’s rugby season involved Sevens representation and a trip to the World Cup in Hong Kong. In Campo: Still Entertaining, Campese criticised the Australian Rugby Union and the then Australian Super 12 franchises for not allowing Australia’s best players to participate in the Hong Kong Sevens. Campese wrote that:
I thought is disgraceful that the Australian Rugby Union would not send its best team. But the blame cannot be laid at their feet alone. The egotist coaches at Super 12 level did not want to jeopardise their Super 12 prospects by releasing any of their star players. So we took a team minus the top players in Australia. The ARU had the view that Australia should target winning a Super 12 title, via the Brumbies, Waratahs or Reds, rather than pooling the best of their resources for a tilt at the World Cup Sevens Crown. Just another example of the professional age.
In 1998 Mark Ella replaced Jeff Miller as coach of the Australian Sevens Team. After New South Wales Waratahs coach Matt Williams explained to Campese that he wanted to use Campese as an ‘impact’ player coming off the bench more often during the 1998 Super 12 season, the ARU approached Campese about acting as an ambassador for the rugby union code trying to raise to game’s profile throughout Australia. The ARU also wanted Campese to take a more active role in Rugby Sevens, participating in the IRB World Series Sevens circuit leading up to the 1998 Commonwealth Games to be held in Malaysia.
Campese played in Australia’s Sevens team alongside players Brendan Williams, Ricky Nalatu, Matt Dowling, Tyron Mandrusiak, Richard Graham, and Cameron Pither. In Ella: The Definitive Biography Mark Ella recalled that, ‘Campo was past his best, but in terms of rugby sense and experience he was still miles ahead of the young players.’
The Australian team toured Uruguay, Argentina, France, Hong Kong, Fiji and Jerusalem. In Fiji in the Australian Sevens team were easily defeated in the quarter-finals by Fiji. In Tokyo Australia lost to New Zealand in the semi-finals. In Ella: The Definitive Biography Mark Ella is quoted saying:
The Australian Sevens team then toured Paris and won their first Sevens tournament in 10 years by defeating New Zealand in the final. This was Australia’s first Sevens tournament victory since it won the Hong Kong Sevens in 1988, during which Campese won the Leslie Williams Award for Player of the Tournament.
Prior to the 1998 Commonwealth Games the Australian Sevens team visited Israel for the “Holy Sevens”, dubbed ‘the holiest sevens tournament in the world.’ Mark Ella later recalled that the Australian team visited Bethlehem “to see where Campo was born.”
At the 1998 Commonwealth Games Australia finished on top of their pool, defeated England in the quarter-finals, but were defeated by Fiji in the semi-finals. New Zealand defeated Fiji in the final to win gold, Fiji received silver, and Australia defeated Samoa in the third-place match to win a bronze medal.
Prior to Australia’s third-place play-off, Campese asked Australian coach Mark Ella to select the younger players ahead of him. Campese ran onto the field in the final minutes to convert a Brendan Williams try, thus completing his last game of rugby sevens for Australia.
Throughout his career Campese was known for his forthright views. The England rugby union team have often been criticised by Campese for what he has considered their boring and unadventurous play. Campese maintained his criticism of England after they were crowned world champions in 2003. However, following England's 2003 Rugby World Cup victory, Campese kept a promise to walk the length of Oxford Street wearing a sandwich board on which was the English flag overlaid with the words "I admit, the best team won!"
In 2013, Campese published tweets urging that naturalised Australian cricketer Fawad Ahmed "go home" because he chose not to wear clothing with the logo of Victoria Bitter on account that it clashes with his Islamic faith. However, he later "tweeted" an apology writing that, "Just like to say sorry for comments. It is about sport and never has or will be about religion . Any (one) who knows me can tell you that." He added that he would be ringing the Australian Cricketers' Association "to say sorry and to pass my message on".
In 1991 Campese released his first autobiography On a Wing and a Prayer with Peter Bills. When asked why he chose a British journalist to co-write his autobiography, Campese responded that, “I know the journos too well in Australia.” He further stated that, “And it was an opportunity to get someone to write something different. Sure, some of the things don’t sound like me, or even very Australian, but I think it adds to the flavour of the book.” The opening sentence reads as follows:
In 2003 Campese released his second autobiography Campo: Still Entertaining.
The tribute book David Campese highlights the following events as being among Campese's career milestones.
Born 21 October 1962, Queanbeyan, NSW to Gianantonio and Joan Campese. Brother Mario (born 1959), sisters Lisa (1964) and Corrina (1965).
Campese family moves back to Montecchio Precalcino in northern Italy in 1966 for eighteen months and returns to Australia and settles again in Queanbeyan the following year.
Attends local public school and high school. Plays rugby league from the ages of eight to sixteen for the Queanbeyan Blues.
Wins the ACT-Monaro Schoolboys golf title in 1978.
First game of rugby union for the Queanbeyan Whites club in the ACT rugby competition in 1979 in fourth grade. Promoted to first grade in 1980.
Selected for the Australian Under 21 side against New Zealand, Sydney Cricket Ground, 1982, at the age of nineteen.
Selected on the 1982 Wallaby tour of New Zealand after ten established Australian players withdrew. Makes his Test debut for Australia at Lancaster Park in Christchurch on 14 August and scores one try.
Scores four tries in Australia's first official Test match v USA in July, 1983 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, equalling Greg Cornelsen's record for the most tries in a Test by an Australian.
Member of the 1984 Wallaby Tour to Great Britain that won rugby's 'grand slam,' the first Australian side to defeat all four home sides, England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, on a tour.
Plays for Italian club Petrarca in the northern city of Padua from 1984–88 during the northern winter. Transfers to the Amatori club in Milan in 1988, owned by Italian media magnate and future Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and plays with them until 1993.
Member of the 1986 side that beat the All Blacks 2-1 in New Zealand, only the fourth international and the second Australian team to win a Test series in New Zealand.
1987 – joins Sydney club Randwick from the Queanbeyan Whites.
Receives a standing ovation from the crowd and applause from his teammates after scoring a zig-zagging try for Australia against the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park in 1988. Campese regards this as his best try in international rugby.
July 1989 – a misguided pass behind the line directed at Greg Martin allows Ieuan Evans to score and the British Lions to win the series, the low point of his career on the field.
Plays his fiftieth Test match for Australia v France in Sydney, June, 1990.
July 1990 – misses selection from the Australian team to play France following his late return from Italy.
October/November 1991 – acclaimed the Player of the 1991 World Cup, scoring six tries in as many matches for the victorious Wallabies. The second pool match against Western Samoa is Campese's sixtieth Test, breaking the record for the most number of Test appearances for Australia. The final against England at Twickenham is Campese's 100th international match for Australia.
August 1992 – scores his fiftieth Test try in Cape Town, in the first Test match between Australia and South Africa since 1971.
September 1992 – opens Campo's Sports and Leisure store at St Ives shopping centre in Sydney with business partner Julie McGraw.
Member of Australia's third World Cup squad in South Africa. Defending champions Australia bow out in the quarter-finals against England.
Omitted from the side to play the first Test v New Zealand in Auckland in the 1995 Bledisloe Cup series. He is a late selection onto the bench in the second Test in Sydney, then runs on as a placement to notch up his ninety-second Test cap.
June 1996 – second Test v Wales in Sydney is Campese's ninety-fourth – second on the all-time list of Test appearances for all nations.
Campese retied in 1996 second on the all-time list of Test appearances for all nations with 101 Tests following a Test against Wales in Cardiff.
David Campese has frequently been cited by several rugby pundits as one of the greatest rugby union players of all time.
In 2002, rugby commentator Bill McLaren named David Campese on the wing in his greatest ever World XV, citing him as his favourite player. He further nominated Campese as the greatest rugby player he ever saw. "Every time David Campese got the ball people sat up and took notice, he took a risk and I love that," said McLaren. "He was so adventurous. Sometimes it didn't work, but he was always willing to try. Andy Irvine was similar, but Campese was the one. He carried the commentary along with the play." In the tribute book David Campese McLaren wrote that, "He and Mike Gibson of Ireland are the most complete footballers I have ever seen."
Following Australia's victory over New Zealand in the 1991 Rugby World Cup semi-final, former Ireland flyhalf Tony Ward said of Campese that, "He is the Maradona, the Pelé of international rugby all rolled into one." He further added that, "You can't put a value on his importance to our game. He's a breath of fresh air and I think perhaps the greatest player of all time."
In his first autobiography The Winning Way former Australian coach Bob Dwyer hailed Campese as being one of the five most accomplished Australian rugby players he has ever seen. Dwyer wrote that, "I would rate Campese first for pure individual brilliance." Dwyer called Campese a "heaven-made Rugby player" and further rated him "the best broken-field runner I have seen." In his second autobiography Full Time: A Coach's Memoir Dwyer wrote that, "For this biased judge, Campo will always be the prince of wingers."
In 1989 David Campese was selected in the Rothmans Rugby Union Yearbook "Team of the Decade" at left-wing. The team was chosen by a panel consisting of former rugby players Gareth Edwards, Jean-Pierre Rives, Ian Robertson, and David Kirk. The Team of the Decade contained: 15. Serge Blanco (France); 14. John Kirwan (New Zealand); 13. Danie Gerber (South Africa); 12. Philippe Sella (France); 11. David Campese (Australia); 10. Hugo Porta (Argentina); 9. Dave Loveridge (New Zealand); 8. Morne du Plessis (South Africa); 7. Graham Mourie (c) (New Zealand); 6. Michael Jones (New Zealand); 5. Andy Haden (New Zealand); 4. Steve Cutler (Australia); 3. Graham Price (Wales); 2. Colin Deans (Scotland); 1. Robert Paparemborde (France). The panel agreed that one selection was straightforward, that of David Campese on the left wing.
In 2007 former England rugby union captain Will Carling rated David Campese the third best rugby player of all time. He stated that, "He was well ahead of his time. His anticipation and vision was way ahead of what everyone else was attempting, and 99 per cent of it came off. He took running lines no one else could fathom and made passes no one could see were on. He was an extraordinary talent – the best winger."
Former England backrower Mike Teague has described Campese as "the best player I've ever seen." Former England centre Jeremy Guscott wrote of Campese that, "Campese is one of the most gifted players ever to pull on a pair of rugby boots. For pure talent and instinct he is up there with Gareth Edwards and Jonah Lomu – that is how much impact he had on the game." Former Wales winger, Ieuan Evans, who marked Campese during the 1989 British Lions tour to Australia, has said of Campese that, "We played against each other five times on that tour and, to me, he was a rugby genius. The best player I had ever played against - a truly wonderful, wonderful player."
In 2013 Australian sports magazine Inside Rugby named its four Australian Invincibles – a rugby union equivalent of rugby league's Immortals. David Campese was named alongside Col Windon, Ken Catchpole, and Mark Ella as the first Invincibles of Australian rugby.
Peter Meares and Maxwell Howell wrote of Campese that, "...his fame surpassed the normal boundaries of sport – Australian rower Nick Green, a Victorian, summed up the Oarsome Foursome's victory in the Barcelona Olympics, like this: 'So easy, Campese.'"
- David Campese, 'A Dying Sport?', On a Wing and a Prayer (1991), 162.
- Bret Harris, 'Captain', Ella, Ella, Ella (1984), 99.
- Terry Smith, 'The Troops', Path to Victory (1987), 134.
- Gareth Edwards, 'David Campese', 100 Great Rugby Players (1987), 21-2.
- Serge Blanco, 'Foreword: From Serge Blanco Captain of France', On a Wing and a Prayer, 9.
Greg Growden, ‘David Campese’, The Wallabies' World Cup (1991), 56.
– Bob Dwyer, 'Campese', The Winning Way (1992), 68, 70.
– Bob Dwyer, 'Campese', The Winning Way (1992), 70.
- Michael O'Connor, The best of both worlds: The Michael O'Connor story (1992), 56.
- Simon Poidevin - 'Australia Comes of Age', For Love Not Money, 233.
- Peter FitzSimons, 'The World Cup', Nick Farr-Jones: The Authorised Biography (1993), 237.
– Jack Pollard, 'CAMPESE, David Ian ('Campo')', Australian Rugby: The Game and its Players (1994), 85.
– Mark Ella, 'The Fastest, Most Elusive Winger in the World', David Campese (1996), 33.
– Alan Jones, 'The Bradman of Rugby Union', David Campese (1996), 33.
– Bill McLaren, 'Entertainer Par Excellence', David Campese (1996), 50-1.
– Bill McLaren, 'Entertainer Par Excellence', David Campese (1996), 54.
– Mark Ella, 'A Kindred Spirit', Running Rugby (1995), 37.
- Kevin Hitchcock, 'Teamwork', One Step Ahead (2001), 124.
– Rod MacQueen, 'Teamwork', One Step Ahead (2001), 125–6.
– Philip Derriman, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 91.
– Glen Ella, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 92.
– Stu Wilson, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 93.
– Graham Mourie, 'The New Brigade', The Rise and Rise of Australian Rugby (2001), 93.
– Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 152.
– Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 154–5.
– Bob Dwyer, Full Time: A Coach’s Memoir (2004), 157–8.
– Matthew Burke, 'Lucky Sevens', Matthew Burke: A rugby life (2005), 47.
– Matthew Burke, 'Anatomy of a Try', Matthew Burke: A rugby life (2005), 134.
– Mark Ella, Ella: The Definitive Biography (2007), p 181-2.
– Michael Lynagh, Blindsided: A rugby great confronts his greatest challenge (2015), p 258.
Campese was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1997. In 1999 Australia Post celebrated the centenary of Australian federation emitting 250 collectible stamps depicting the champ and autographed by the same Campese. He Received an Australian Sports Medal in 2000, a Centenary Medal in 2001, and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2002. In 2007 Campese was honoured in the third set of inductees into the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2013.