In the late 1960s the Rugby Football Union began making plans to celebrate its 1971 centenary year. As part of the programme of events a film was commissioned that would tell the story of rugby union, from its origins to the present.
William Webb Ellis, Are You Mad? began with a look at the formative beginnings of the game as an English pastime in the Middle Ages, before recreating the famous moment when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran at Rugby School in 1823. Interspersed are cameos from Bill Ramsey (then RFU Secretary) Budge Rodgers, Jim Telfer with preliminaries and match-highlights of the 76th Calcutta Cup Match between England and Scotland at Twickenham in 1969.
J. W. Telfer (Scotland) and D. P. Rogers (England) with referee C. Durand, 15/03/1969, Twickenham
Narrated by Brian Jackson, the 27 minute film also features celebrated aspects of grassroots rugby such as singing in the showers, post-match pint and finger buffet. Though it captures in microcosm the spirit of rugby union at the time it also features much that we would recognise today.
William Webb Ellis, Are You Mad? will be shown in the World Rugby Museum across the weekend of the England Scotland match.
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The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘national treasure’ as something that is emblematic of a nation’s cultural identity. The World Rugby Museum has at least one of these on its register in the shape of the world’s oldest international football trophy, otherwise known as the Calcutta Cup.
So called because it was crafted in the Indian city (Kolkata) by Indian silversmiths it contains in its shape and design echoes of a shared history between Britain and India and the early development and spread of team sport.
In the ‘King’s Cup’ opening encounter the fledgling Royal Air Force outfit, with the last- minute addition of an amazing Air Force character, met a strong New Zealand Services XV at a windblown Swansea on St David’s Day 1919…
Unfortunately, the brand-new RAF side lost three of their best players when illness struck en route to Wales. In any event, they had not had much time together, while New Zealand were not only at full strength, but were a tried and tested unit for this St David’s Day tournament opener at a Swansea ground well used to hosting major internationals.
As skipper ‘Wakers’ Wakefield put it, ‘…influenza raged and destroyed our prospects of getting together a reasonable team in time for our first match and we were badly beaten by the New Zealanders at Swansea on my first visit to that ground.’
William Wavell Wakefield’s RAF Jersey, on display in World Rugby Museum Wartime gallery
Edmund Charles Blunden CBE MC is remembered as a well-travelled poet and war hero but fewer people are aware of his impact on the early development of rugby in Japan.
Born in London in 1896, he was educated at Christ’s Hospital and Queen’s College, Oxford. He had published his first book of poems while still a teenager and was posted to the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1915 at the age of 19. Continue reading
Continuing our series of biographies by David Smith, covering some of the British & Irish Lions who served with the RAF.
Louis Leisler Greig was born on 17th November 1880 in Glasgow and after school studied medicine at Glasgow University. After a few years practicing as a junior doctor in the Gorbals, he joined the navy in 1906 and won the gold medal during his training at RNH Haslar. In 1909, Greig entered officer training at the Royal Naval College, Osborne, where he met Prince Albert, later George VI and became a mentor for the prince; the two served together in HMS Cumberland, where he was posted as a surgeon.
The 1973 incarnation of the Five Nations championship kicked off at the newly rebuilt Parc de Prince in Paris on the 13th January.
France hosted Scotland in a tight game, with tries apiece from Claude Dourthe and Alan Lawson supplemented by a drop-goal each from Jean-Pierre Romeu and Ian McGeechan. In the end, just one Romeu penalty kick was the difference, handing France a 16-13 victory.
The tournament was underway.
Groggs – they are unique sculpted caricatures depicting famous rugby players and a select few other notable personalities. For more than half a century these quirky creations have won over the hearts of rugby fans across Wales and beyond and we are delighted to be hosting a new special exhibition, ‘The March of the Groggs’, co-curated with sculptor Richard Hughes and World of Groggs.
World of Groggs and the Groggshop was established by Richard’s father John in Treforest, Pontypridd, in 1965. It has remained a family-run business ever since.