World Rugby Museum Curator, Phil McGowan, remembers the rugby players that served in the First World War…
When Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914 one sport above all others stood out due to the immediacy of its response. Such was the example set by rugby union footballers that the war office produced a poster advising other sportsmen to follow their ‘glorious example’ by enlisting with the armed forces. When the Rugby Football Union convened a month later they discussed the idea of forming a Rugby Football Corps but concluded that it was too late since all of their members were already inside barracks. Between 1914 and 1918 rugby footballers served in almost every British campaign. Over the course of the commemorative period 2014-2018 I have had the privilege to research and write about those that served, some who fell and others who returned. Here follows a selection of those men.
The first ever visit of a Fijian touring side to Australia took place in the summer of 1952. This tour originally comprised 9 matches including appearances on Sydney Cricket Ground for a match against New South Wales and a historic first test against Australia on July 26th 1952. Although Fiji had played 28 tests since 1924 and won 16 of them, their previous opponents – Samoa, Tonga and the NZ Maoris – were not full members of the International Rugby Football Board. This was the first time that the Fiji national side played one of the leading rugby nations.
Fiji team, 1951
The Fiji team won their opening two tour matches against South Harbour and City of Sydney before drawing 14-14 on July 12th with a powerful New South Wales side containing 14 current or future Wallabies in front of a record crowd of 38,699 spectators. Following three further victories including a convincing 24-17 victory in Brisbane over a strong Queensland side with 11 current or future Wallabies, the Fijians amply demonstrated in the lead-up to the test their powerful running and superb handling, qualities that generations of spectators have enjoyed ever since. Continue reading
As Black History month draws to a close we thought we would share the story of French rugby international Georges Jèrôme.
Born in French Guiana in 1883, a young Georges Jèrôme left his homeland for continental France, where he dedicated much of his adult life to rugby.
A lock forward, Jèrôme played for several French clubs, the most successful being Stade Français, with whom he won the Championnat de France in 1903 and was runner-up the following four years.
Jèrôme was selected to play in the back row for an uncapped French game against Ireland in 1905, and he captained the ‘Blacks’ team in France’s ‘Blacks against Whites’ match that same year at Parc des Princes, Paris.
He made his official debut for France on 1st January 1906 against New Zealand’s famed ‘Originals’ side. This game was not only France’s first capped international match, but one of the first official international games to feature non-white players – Georges Jèrôme and André Vergès.
Jèrôme proved his worth on the pitch, scoring a try against a strong All Blacks team. His second and final international took place against England on 22nd March 1906; the same match in which the French unveiled their first tricolour outfit.
Following his playing career, Georges Jèrôme dedicated much time to coaching rugby in Périgueux and Villeneuve-sur-Lot and refereeing in the South-West of France.
Jèrôme is honoured in the Rugby Pioneers gallery at the World Rugby Museum.
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Keith Gregson reports on one town’s efforts to rebuild rugby after the First World War…
After spending four years analysing the effect of the First World War on Sunderland Rugby Football Club, I am convinced that there were a number of valid reasons why the sport struggled in the town after 1918. At least three members of each side had died as a result of the war while a similar number had received injuries which prevented them from resuming the sport. At the same time it may be safe to assume there were those who must have been mentally scarred and/or unwilling to go back to play when so many of their colleagues were no longer around. A final thought is that by 1919 five years had passed since the last club game and a number of players must have considered themselves too ‘long in the tooth’ to play.
If research into other clubs is to be believed SRFC was not alone in struggling to field one single 1st XV in the seasons immediately following the conflict. Nevertheless archive evidence has survived in Sunderland which points to remarkably successful efforts to rectify the situation on part of the club, its players past and present and other local bodies. Continue reading
We’re delighted to announce that Brave Blossoms: the History of Rugby in Japan is now open at Tokyo Sports Square Fan Zone and will be on display for the duration of Rugby World Cup 2019.
Following its display during 2018/19 at the World Rugby Museum in Twickenham, the exhibition has traveled to Japan to tell the story of rugby in the tournament’s host nation, charting the evolution of rugby alongside the development of modern Japan.
Did you know that the Springboks used to perform a Zulu war dance, similar to the haka? The EMI Archive Trust recently got in touch with us to share this snippet recorded in 1906 when South Africa were on tour to the UK and France.
The following is an account of the 1906-07 tour… Continue reading