Sky Sport presenter Kirstie Stanway-Thorne’s secret All Black link

As she heads to France for the Rugby World Cup, the Sky Sport presenter reveals a surprise family connection

Most Kiwis are used to having a “couch coach” in the house – the family member who can’t and won’t stop with the advice, commentary and, of course, the criticism when the rugby is on.

We’re used to rolling our eyes and turning our focus back to the real experts on screen, such as Sky Sport presenter Kirstie Stanway-Thorne.

But Kirstie’s own couch coach, her father-in-law, holds a little more mana than your average fan – after all, he’s All Blacks legend Grahame Thorne!

“I had no choice but to be rugby-mad when I was a kid because of my own dad, but now I’ve gone and married into the same kind of family who are obsessed with it!” laughs Kirstie, who tied the knot with husband Gareth in a dreamy outdoor wedding in Queenstown earlier this year.

Kirstie and Gareth with family, including Grahame (second from left), at their wedding.

“You know when you used to play sport growing up and your mum or dad would drive you home while debriefing you on your own game? Well, Gareth’s dad does that to me now after being on telly. After every game, he’ll send me pointers, like, ‘Did you see the ref’s decision about this!’ or, ‘Have you seen this article?’ And after [Sky rugby show] The Breakdown, I’ll get a novel sent to me. It’s amazing!

“It’s pretty cute he does that because he cares so much. But what I only found out recently is that he actually created and starred in Re:Union, which was the precursor to The Breakdown, which I now host. It absolutely blew my mind when Gareth told me that. It’s nice we’re keeping it in the family!”

The pair share a close relationship that’s firmly rooted in rugby, although Kirstie – who is of Ngāti Porou descent – didn’t realise Gareth’s dad was a former All Black when she first started dating him!

“I just thought they were all obsessed with rugby,” she recalls. “Gareth and his two brothers played – obviously their dad wasn’t too bad – so their whole lives revolved around the game. And now Gareth has to watch me on TV every weekend and he’s sick of rugby!”

Father-in-law and legend Grahame often sends pointers to Kirstie after a game.

It’s a wild but fitting family connection for sport-mad Kirstie, who is about to head to France to cover the Rugby World Cup for Sky for the second time in her illustrious career. While she’s covered many other major sporting events, it’s the Rugby World Cups that are firm career highlights.

“There’s something so special about them,” she explains. “The Olympics was cool, but very different – it’s an intense two or three weeks where you’re just chasing your tail. With the rugby, there’s a bit of time, and you build these amazing connections and relationships with the players.

“Gosh, I look back at that first one and I think, ‘I was a little kid!’ I’d only just started doing rugby and I was so inexperienced. Really, I was just a fan! I had no idea what I was in for – I just thought it was a dream that I got to travel, cover sport and get paid. But it’s a long, hard slog too.”

With All Blacks captain Sam Cane.

And while she has a truckload of good rugby to watch, Kirstie and Gareth are also looking forward to after the World Cup, when they’ll finally take their honeymoon across Europe. Just don’t ask Kirstie what the plan is – she has no idea!

“In our defence, it’s hard to plan because we don’t know when we’re starting – it depends on what happens with the All Blacks,” she laughs. “But it’ll be the classic spots and the bucket-list countries. It’ll be November/December and it won’t be warm, so we’re thinking Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Israel… The thing that excites us most about travel is meeting so many different people and the adventures, not so much the touristy things.”

And as for the Rugby World Cup itself? Well, Kirstie’s certainly not making too many predictions right now, but she knows where her heart is.

“I mean, I always say we’re going to win the thing!” she grins. “But it’ll be bloody hard. It’s so hard to win a World Cup, especially at the moment, when there are four or five teams that could absolutely win. But that’s why it’s so intriguing and exciting. We’re in for a brilliant World Cup!”

The Rugby World Cup kicks off on Saturday 9 September, with all matches screening live on Sky Sport and Sky Sport Now.

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