International Triplets

Photographs of the three BARRETT brothers standing in line for the national anthems before starting for the All Blacks in the 1st test against France in June 2018 gained much coverage on and off line, but this was not the first time they had been picked in an All Black squad. 

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – JUNE 09: Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett and Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks stand for the national anthem during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Eden Park on June 9, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Beauden Barrett was the first-choice fly half against Samoa at Eden Park in June 2017 with his two younger brothers, Scott and Jordi, on the bench.  Although Scott came on in the 51st minute, Beauden was replaced two minutes before Jordi came on in the 63rd minute and so the three brothers had not yet played together on the pitch in an international.  Similarly, in the 3rd test against the British Lions later that season, Scott came on in the 78th minute by which time Jordi had been substituted with his brother Beauden having moved from fly half to replace him at full back.  To date the three Barrett brothers have taken the field in 13 international matches but have only started together in five of those matches.

There have been around 30 known cases of “triplets” appearing for their country. Some of these families earned great renown on the rugby field – the Doran, Harvey and Magee brothers for Ireland before the 1st World War, the Bekker triplets and two sets of Du Plessis brothers for South Africa with the Ella brothers for Australia in more recent times – but only a select group of six families have produced siblings who have appeared alongside at least two other brothers in the same international team on the same day.

The rollcall starts in March 1875 when the three Edinburgh Academicals brothers, Arthur, James and Ninian FINLAY played for Scotland in a 0-0 draw against England at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh.  The eldest brother James had played in the historic first international against England in 1871 and was winning his fourth cap.  Arthur was playing his only international that day but his younger brother in the threequarters Ninian, aged only seventeen and still one of the two youngest players to be capped by Scotland, was at the beginning of an illustrious career in which he played nine consecutive matches for Scotland and became the first player to drop three goals in an international career.

In February 1886, the three ROSS brothers, Dan, John and Joseph, were threequarters who played for Ireland at Raeburn Place against Scotland in a very heavy defeat.  Centre three quarter John was the Ireland captain, and winning his fifth cap like his brother Dan, but his brother Joseph won his only cap as a late call-up in a team severely weakened by no less than ten changes from its original selection.  Unsurprisingly none of the three brothers was ever selected to represent Ireland again.

Four Neilson brothers represented Scotland with distinction between 1891 and 1900 but no more than two brothers ever took the field together in an international.  The third brother, Gordon, played his only match against England in 1894 as a late replacement for his oldest brother George in the forwards, but the youngest of the brothers, Robert, did not play for Scotland until 1898 by which time his older brothers’ international careers were over.

The South African selectors chose the three LUYT brothers to tour the United Kingdom and France in 1912-13.  Centre RR ‘Dick’ Luyt and his younger brother the half back FP ‘Freddie’ Luyt, an early exponent of the scrum half’s dive pass, had already played for Western Province and the Springboks against the touring British Isles side in 1910.  On their northern hemisphere tour they were joined by their eldest brother John, a forward from Eastern Province who played with his brothers against Scotland, Wales and England in three matches of their victorious Grand Slam.

South Africa team, 1912

In Italy’s first international match against Spain in Barcelona in May 1929, the three VINCI brothers, Paolo, Francesco and Piero took the field in the three-quarters at the beginning of the game.  They were joined at half-time by their eldest brother Eugenio, a back row forward, to provide the first and to my knowledge only occasion on which four brothers played together during an international match.  It was Eugenio’s only cap, but the three younger brothers played together a second time against Spain a year later in Milan with Paolo scoring the decisive try in a 3-0 victory.

More than fifty years were to elapse before three brothers from the Italian FRANCESCATI family – Bruno, Nello and Rino – played together in the national three-quarter line against Romania at Padua in 1981.  Although he never played alongside his older brothers in the national side., their young brother Ivan was an outstanding centre three-quarter who played thirty eight times for Italy from 1990 to 1997 and died tragically young in 2002.

The TUILAGI family from Samoa joined this rare group of triplets over twenty years later.  On June 22nd 2002, Samoa defeated Fiji 22-10 Prince Charles Park, Nadi with brothers Alesana on his international debut and Freddie in his fifteenth international in the threequarters and Henry winning his third cap at No 8.  Uniquely, five brothers in the Tuilagi family played for Samoa between 1992 and 2017.  The youngest brother, Manu was brought up in England and is still a first-choice centre for the England side having won 43 caps since 2011.  The total of six brothers from the same family in international rugby is most unlikely ever to be equalled.

Sources:

  • The Book of English International Rugby – John Griffiths (Willow Books 1982)
  • Brothers in Black – Jamie Wall (Allen & Unwin, Auckland 2019)
  • Encyclopédie du rugby française – Pierre Lafond & Jean-Pierre Bodis (Editions Dehedin 1989)
  • The History of Scottish Rugby – Sandy Thorburn (Johnston & Bacon 1980)
  • Irish Rugby 1874-1999 – Edmund Van Esbeck (Gill & Macmillan Ltd, Dublin 1999)
  • The Springboks 1891-1970 – AC Parker (Cassell & Company Ltd, 1970)
  • The Wallabies – Howell, Xie & Wilkes (GAP Publishing 2000)
  • History of Welsh International Rugby – John Billot (Roman Way Books 1999)
  • World Rugby Yearbook 2015 – Bond, Clark & Griffiths (Vision Sports Publishing 2014)

Appendix

International Triplets

BJ – SK – JM Barrett (NZ) – YES

HPJ – RP – MJ Bekker (SA

EF – GP – BRW Doran (Ire

W – MJ – CJ Du Plessis (SA)

J-L – D – RJ Du Plessis (SA)

MG – GA – GJ Ella (Aus)

JF – AB – NJ Finlay (Sc) – YES (1875 v England)

AJ – H – EG Forrest (Ire)

Nello – Rino – Bruno + Ivan Francescato (Italy) YES (v Romania 1981)

COP – GR – TA Gibson (Eng)

R – JA- GH Gould (Wal)

TA – GAD – FMW Harvey (Ire)

TR – FS – VA Hewitt (Ire)

WH – R – JT Hunt (Eng)

WE – RW – R Johnston (Ire)

DP – JP – JP Jones (Wal)

M – T – M Lievremont (Fr)

JD – RR – FP Luyt (SA) – YES (1912 v Scotland, Wales, England)

JT – JM – AM Magee (Ire & BI)

IG – DF – KS Milne (Sc)

DF – FW – CM Moore (Ire)

GT – W – WG – RT Neilson (Sc – 4) – NEARLY (1894 v England)

JG – TB – R Pedlow (Ire)

G -T – K Pisi (Sam)

DJ – JP – JF Ross (Ire) – YES (1886 v Scotland)

T – WS – PJ Smyth (Ire)

HE – JP – AJ Tancred (Aus)

S – S – L Timani (Aus + Tg)

Tuilagi family – Sam (4) + Eng (1) – YES (2002 Samoa v Fiji – 22 June – AT, FV & H)

E – Paulo – F – Piero Vinci (Italy) – YES (4 v Spain 1929 & 3 v Spain 1930)

RM – PS – DP Wallace (Ire)

GB – SL – LC Whitelock (NZ)

About the Author – A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has had a life-long love of sport.  He has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005.


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6 Responses to International Triplets

  1. Mike Cordell says:

    Hi Richard, as ever enjoyed your article.
    I think there may be another Samoan connection that can claim this distinction & at RWC to boot! – the PISI family, Tusi (Fly Half), George (Centre) & Ken (Wing). The latter two played Club rugby for Northampton Saints & the former for Bristol Bears. All three were in the Samoa squad in 2015. For the pool match with South Africa at Villa Park, Ken played the entire match, whilst both Tusi & George were second half replacements.

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  2. Mike Cordell says:

    They also almost achieved the feat in the final pool game against Scotland at St James’s Park, Newcastle, Tusi & George started. Ken came off the bench in the final quarter, but contemporaneously Tusi was replaced at the same break in play.

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    • Mike – many thanks for adding in the Pisi brothers from Samoa. Other viewers have added in the three Gould brothers from Wales in the 19th century and the three Ella brothers from Australia in the 1980s. This article might run and run!

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      • keithgregson says:

        Especially if we go to club level – researching yesterday about club origins came across five Kayll brothers playing for Sunderland FC v Tees Wanderers in November 1877 – sure there are whole teams full of siblings elsewhere!

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  3. The appendix has now been updated with the extra triplets. Thanks for bringing them to our attention!

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  4. Mike Cordell says:

    Hello again Richard.
    Another set of international triplets was confirmed tonight, remarkably for three different Countries.
    Billy Burns’ debut for Ireland adds to Freddie’s England caps. But also I believe that their brother (sorry I’m not sure of his first name) is a Cyprus International.

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