x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Friendly rivalry behind Canada's clash with Japan

John Kirwan and Kieran Crowley will put their friendship on hold for 80 minutes today as Canada face Japan at the Rugby World Cup.

John Kirwan remembers Kieran Crowley only too well - Crowley used to wake him up at the crack of dawn every day when they were roommates in the New Zealand squad back in the 1980s when they were both players.

Today, they square up on the sidelines at the Rugby World Cup: Kirwan as coach of Japan, Crowley with Canada, for the Pool A encounter.

They go back years, winning the inaugural World Cup together in 1987.

Kirwan jinked down the wing, Crowley flew at full-back, and they hailed from vastly different backgrounds: Kirwan from Auckland, and Crowley - four years his senior - from the Taranaki region.

"He [Kirwan] was a city slicker who liked to sleep and didn't know what the real world was like at that stage," Crowley told the Associated Press at the team's hotel yesterday.

Kirwan poked fun at Crowley, too, in his memories of their time together.

"He's a good guy, great guy ... dry humour. Him and I used to room a lot together, except he was a farmer and he used to get up at 6am, used to milking [cows]," Kirwan said yesterday. "I used to say: 'I'm from the city, I don't get up until a while later'."

Kirwan, who played in 63 Tests for the All Blacks, is praying Crowley does not prank-call him in the early hours of this morning.

"I hope not. I'm not missing being his roommate. I look forward to catching up with him after the game," the 46-year-old Kirwan said.

"I guess he's not a farmer any more, so he probably doesn't go to bed so early and get up too early."

Despite their different lifestyles, they had great complicity on the rugby field.

"We had great fun, with him being a full-back and me being a winger," Kirwan said. "But he was a little bit stressed out in the early eighties because he went from names of his cows to [shirt] numbers, so that was a bit stressful for him. The only positive was he would make me a cup of tea."

Strangely, the 50-year-old Crowley has no recollection whatsoever of putting the kettle on for Kirwan. "I can't remember that," he said, laughing. "If he says so it's probably true."

Crowley played 19 times for the All Blacks from 1983 to 1991, scoring 105 points, and he sometimes pines for that era.

"It was outstanding. People quite often say you've missed out on [the professional era], but I wouldn't change it for anything," he said.

"The friends you made, the experiences you had, and the mates you've got through those experiences.

"You wouldn't trade that for anything," he continued. "It was a dream of every kid in New Zealand, [and when] you finally get there, and you're experiencing the dream. It's unbelievable.