My Rugby World Cup hero: Karne Hesketh

Date published: July 24 2019

Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, we dig through the archives to highlight a hero from the tournament. Next up, it’s Karne Hesketh.

Player background

Karne Hesketh was born on 1 August 1985 in Napier, New Zealand and spent his early professional career at Otago. The back represented the province for four campaigns, between 2006 and ’10, and appeared 33 times for the Dunedin-based outfit. However, he left the country later that year to sign for Japanese team Munakata Sanix Blues and impressed over the next few seasons, scoring an excellent 22 tries in 39 matches. Hesketh duly qualified for the Japanese national side on residency and made his debut in 2014.

The wing’s international career was only short, lasting until 2016, but he made a significant impact in that period by touching down seven times in 15 caps. He wasn’t quite as prolific in the four games he played at the 2015 World Cup in England, but that one score Hesketh had to his name against South Africa in the shock 34-32 triumph will remain etched in everyone’s memory.

His Rugby World Cup moment

It is obviously that aforementioned try against the Springboks, in a passage of play which reverberated around the world and transcended the sport. It was not just the score itself that created the magical nature of the moment, but the time of the game, the composure, the execution and the sheer ecstasy in Brighton helped seal its legacy.

Japan were awarded a couple of penalties late on and could have kicked a relatively simple three-pointer to level the match, but they decided to go for the win and it paid off. The Brave Blossoms displayed the calmness of a champion side to take the scrum and then go through the phases, moving the ball to the right hand side.

Although South Africa’s defence initially remained stout, the pressure told and the Japanese created the overlap as Amanaki Mafi, who impressed after coming onto the field, fended off Jesse Kriel’s attempted tackle. He duly fed Hesketh on the left and the wing did the rest to spark pandemonium both on and off the field.

This series is open to all our readers so if you have a World Cup hero – for whatever reason or from whichever country – then get on your computer and pay tribute to them in the above format. We will strive to publish as many as possible before and during the tournament. Email your piece to