It wasn’t just scoring the first try of the 1999 World Cup final that etched Ben Tune’s name in history but nominating how he’d do it 48 hours before.
The French were worthy rivals in the Cardiff decider after producing one of the most stunning of World Cup upsets when toppling the All Blacks 43-31 in the semi-finals.
The Roar is counting down the Wallabies’ Greatest World Cup XV of all time from No. 15-1 with thanks to thousands of votes from our readers
The Wallabies had already started match-planning to face the Kiwis until the French ran riot in the second half.
The elusive yet small French back three of Xavier Garbajosa, Christophe Dominici and Philippe Bernat-Salles had sparkled with two tries between them.
Tune was always endearingly matter-of-fact and happily called out their defensive weaknesses as well.
Why wouldn’t he test them out on the grandest stage?
Sure enough, the final was a tryless affair until past the hour mark when winger Tune took charge.
Halfback George Gregan veered the attack to the shortside from a ruck and Tune missiled onto a ball from pack replacement Owen Finegan.
There was no sidestep or shimmy. It was if platinum-topped fullback Garbajosa had an “X” painted on his body to denote his Christian name.
Tune just speared right through him and dotted down for the decisive try that gave the Wallabies an impregnable 28-12 lead.
Tune scored 24 tries in his 47-Test career but never one more important.
He was a classical finisher with pace, size and a swerve who made it count with his knack for surging through contact.
He was at the top of his game at the 1999 tournament under a distinctive crewcut for that seven weeks. He finished sharp lead-up work with a try against Ireland which again showed how good Gregan was in his prime.
Tune scored another chasing a kick through against Wales. He started in five of the Wallabies’ six games and was as good as any winger at the tournament outside Jonah Lomu.
The World Cup triumph was a worthy career highlight for the Queensland winger, who would have played so many more Tests but for persistent knee troubles.
He would have been just 26 and at the peak of his powers for the 2003 World Cup but injuries denied him a selection chance.
It was a significant nod to Tune’s resilience that he battled back from those career-threatening handicaps to play his final Test in 2006 after a near four-year break from the international arena.
It says plenty for how easy on the eye an in-form Tune was to watch because he’s beaten some seriously good wingers for a place in The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies RWC XV.
If you imagine David Campese is the hottest of certainties for the other wing spot that means the likes of Joe Roff, Marika Koroibete, Lote Tuqiri, Drew Mitchell and others have missed out.
Tune embodied everything Aussies admire in a winger. He was a young and sleek scoring machine when he crossed for his first Test try at just 19 in 1996. There was always obvious enjoyment in the smile he flashed.
He stood up and competed against the late, great Lomu, who made a trans-Tasman dash to Brisbane to honour his top Australian rival at a function.
Tune also had a fun-loving streak. He was the emblem of how much the Wallabies had enjoyed celebrating night-long with “Bill” when they won the trophy in 1999.
The sight of a slightly unsteady Tune at Heathrow Airport carrying the Webb Ellis Cup by the handle with one hand literally oozed with enjoying the priceless moment for as long as possible.
Ben Tune is your choice of No.14 for The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV, powered by ASICS, the Official Performance Apparel and Footwear supplier for the Wallabies. Tune won with 51.1% of the vote, followed by Adam Ashley-Cooper and Wendell Sailor. Check back tomorrow to find out who was selected at No.13.
The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV