SPECIAL EXHIBITION – Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan

‘Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan’ is produced in partnership with ‘England Rugby Travel’ and ‘Kanto District Transport Bureau’.

As the rugby world turns towards the land of the rising sun in anticipation of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, the World Rugby Museum is delighted to present its new special exhibition ‘Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan’.

Featuring new research and objects drawn from around the world, this special exhibition tells the story of how Japan transitioned from the late Edo to early Meiji period and the role that rugby union played in establishing educational and diplomatic links, initially between Japan and Great Britain and then the wider sporting world.


Graphic Magazine, 1874

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Rugby remembers the fallen of the First World War

lestweforget LR

Throughout the First World War rugby players from all nations and of all levels distinguished themselves by their bravery and conduct.  In 1915 the British War Office produced a poster imploring other sports to following the ‘glorious example’ of rugby players by ‘doing their duty’ and enlisting with the armed forces.  But that was just the start of the story. Continue reading

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Lest We Forget – Alexander James Ridland (New Zealand) 05/11/1918

Alexander James (Jimmy) Ridland died at Le Quesnoy in France on 5th November 1918 during the final week of the First World War.  A rifleman in the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, he was the last of the 13 All Blacks who lost their lives in the war.

Jimmy Ridland

Jimmy Ridland was born on 3rd March 1882 in Invercargill, the son of immigrants from the Shetland Islands.  He earned his living as a blacksmith and played his early rugby as a forward for the local Invercargill Star Club.  He went on to play for his provincial district Southland in 22 matches between 1907 and 1913, matches which included Southland’s fixture against the touring Anglo-Welsh team in June 1908 (a defeat by 14 points to 8) and their 13-8 victory over the visiting Australian side in September 1913.  While not a fashionable province in rugby terms, Southland nevertheless produced nine All Blacks before the First World War including the great half back JW (Billy) Stead, vice-captain of the 1905-06 tour to Britain and France and captain of the All Blacks in four of his seven tests. Continue reading

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Dave Gallaher: The Original All-Black


David Gallagher was born in Ramelton, County Donegal in 1873.  At the age of four his family emigrated to New Zealand.  On arrival David’s father is thought to have altered the family name to ‘Gallaher’ to reflect its pronunciation.  David’s mother died when he was still in his teens and with an elderly father, he and his siblings found work to support the family.

In his spare time he played rugby.  In Katikati at first, then later in Auckland, at the Parnell Club and Ponsonby District RFC.  A physical, hard-tackling player he was comfortable in the forwards.  He was selected as Hooker for Auckland in 1897.

After serving with the New Zealand Contingent in the Boer War, Gallaher was selected to represent New Zealand in 1903 on their tour of Australia.  Continue reading

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Eric Watts Moses: A President at War

As commemorations of the First World War come to an end, Sunderland RFC’s archivist and historian looks at the war record of a pioneering rugby administrator.

Eric Watts Moses

Sunderland RFC’s Eric Watts Moses (1895 -1975) was President of the RFU during the 1949/50 season and the record books acknowledge his contribution to the development of rugby union across the globe during, before and after his presidency.  During the 1914-18 conflict he served as a young officer in the East Yorkshire Regiment and historian Ross Wilson turned to him for a description of those ‘moments of intense violence’ at the Front when ‘rifles were turned into savage instruments’.  The future RFU President noted;

‘We went in with our rifles without bayonets fixed or with bayonets only.  Using…rifles as clubs and they were more effective that way…we really got into a tangle and that is the only expression one can use.’

Eric survived the horrors of Passchendaele described in the extract and also the Somme to return to his native Sunderland and embark on a career of significance in the board rooms of rugby union. Continue reading

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Eyes Wide Open: The Demi Sakata Story

Japan team, 1968

Japan team, 1968

In 1968 Japan shocked the rugby world by defeating the Junior All-Blacks in Wellington.  Japanese Wing Yoshihiro ‘Demi’ Sakata scored four of Japan’s six tries that day and would go on to demonstrate that the performance was no fluke.

This is his story. Continue reading

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Arts Council Full Accreditation


The World Rugby Museum is pleased to announce that it has been conferred full accreditation, nationally styled, by the Arts Council England.

The accreditation standard is a nationally agreed certificate of organisational health that demonstrates that a museum inspires the confidence of the public, funding and governing bodies.

As a ‘World’ Rugby Museum we are obliged to meet the same standards as venerable national institutions such as the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. That these standards have been met demonstrates the quality of the museum’s function both front-of and back-of-house.

“After a £1.8 Million pound investment we are confident that our museum is now a benchmark within the wider sports heritage sector. Achieving accredited status with the Arts Council demonstrates that our back-of-house functions are of the same quality” – Phil McGowan

The award comes after a wholesale review of the museum’s policy, business plan and mission statement, which is ‘to celebrate and share the unique history, culture and tradition of rugby union in all its forms, wherever and by whomsoever it is played.’

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