Gregan’s barb still cuts deep

George Gregan’s famous taunt is still hurting the All Blacks three years after their World Cup failure.

“Four more years.” That’s what the Wallaby captain told the shattered New Zealanders when his side had all but won the 2003 World Cup semi-final in Sydney.

Richie McCaw recently admitted it was the most amazing and infuriating comment he had heard on a rugby field because “there was nothing we could say back”.

Gregan’s opposite number on Saturday, Byron Kelleher, says he would never have said something similar had the Wallabies been heading out of the World Cup. He also insists that he doesn’t retaliate with chirps of his own.

“If you get carried away with banter on the field, it can distract you from your game,” he told Sydney Morning Herald writer Greg Growden. “It was obviously a comment he [Gregan] thought was appropriate at the time. Still, George is pretty vocal on the field, and I’m not, so hopefully my actions speak louder than words. I’m really not too much of a sledger.”

Kelleher admitted the two had a fierce rivalry on the field.

“It started in the Brumbies-Highlanders game in 2001, which we won, and it carried on through to the Bledisloe Cup. It started tactically with me putting pressure on Gregan to distribute the ball to the first five-eighth. Fortunately enough, we were able to get on top of that.

“He [Gregan] doesn’t enjoy confrontation too much,” Kelleher added. “He definitely prefers the tactical game. But he is still not shy of the tackle. He’s a talented athlete and I do look forward to playing against him. He works off the talented players around him and puts them into space. I suppose you can call it an ‘east-west’ game, but it works for him.”