If asked to name the most illustrious three-quarter line from one club or country, northern hemisphere rugby historians are most likely to name the Oxford University and Scotland three-quarter line of the 1920s – Ian Smith and the Australian AC ‘Johnnie’ Wallace on the wings with GPS ‘Phil’ Macpherson and the New Zealand All Black George Aitken in the centre. Although they never played together in a varsity match against Cambridge University, they formed the first-choice three-quarter line in Scotland’s Grand Slam winning matches in 1925.
Southern hemisphere historians however are much more likely to nominate “The Thin Red Line”, the Stellenbosch and Western Province three-quarter line which formed the heart of the South African backline on their first tour of the United Kingdom and France in 1906-07. Bob Loubser on the right wing, Japie Krige at right centre, HA ‘Boy’ De Villiers at left centre and Anton Stegmann on the left wing formed one of the great combinations and the four players scored 52 tries between them on the 29-match tour.
With the Rugby Football Union now in its 150th year, Keith Gregson advises on how you can find out the history of your own rugby clubs.
In a recent blog I noted how fortunate I was as archivist for Sunderland RFC to have access to club records which include minutes, membership books and other documents. By working with these, a newspaper site and a family history site I was able to track down in some detail the players who appeared in the Sunderland 1st XV which won the first Durham County Cup Final in 1881. Just recently I was approached by local historian Chris Sharp whose main interest is in a working class area of Sunderland which fringes on Ashbrooke where most of the Sunderland RFC players lived. He wondered if I knew anything about a rugby side called Sunderland Rovers which had played matches on grounds in the area in which he was interested. I had heard of the club as it had been on the losing side in one of the 1881 cup semi-finals but could add little else. In hope rather than expectation I went to the newspaper and family history sites mentioned above and I am pleased to report that I met with considerable success. I hope this is encouraging to club historians whose club was around in the nineteenth century but has not left significant club records.
As the Rugby Football Union enters its 150th season, Barney Burnham looks back fifty years to his own involvement in the celebrations that marked a Century of international rugby.
1970. Apollo 13 had a problem. Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest, for Ireland. The Troubles were flaring in Northern Ireland. Doug Saunders missed an important putt at St. Andrew’s. England’s cricketers took on The Rest of the World, after South Africa’s tour had been called off.
In rugby, England finished bottom of the Five Nations – a major disappointment, after their historic win against the Springboks in December 1969 – but the Rugby Football Union was about to embark on a season of celebrations, to mark their centenary. On a personal front, I was about to begin a French degree.
One of the expectations that visitors have when joining a stadium tour is that the tour guide can answer each and every one of their questions. Some questions are regular ones. “What is the best match you have ever seen at Twickenham?” comes into that category. Having had the privilege of seeing matches since the late 1950s, when I first came with my rugby-playing school to see a varsity match, a fully satisfactory answer is not easy, even if one can first define exactly what is meant by “best”.
The years following England’s triumph in Sydney at the 2003 Rugby World Cup were lean ones. Sir Clive Woodward had resigned as coach after a disappointing southern hemisphere summer tour in 2004 and was succeeded by Andy Robinson, his assistant coach. Robinson inherited an experienced side which needed refreshing and this process had been ongoing for two years by the time the autumn internationals took place in 2006.
In the opening match, the All Blacks conclusively inflicted a sixth consecutive defeat on England by 41 points to 20. A week later on November 11th 2006, Argentina came to Twickenham. Argentina had never beaten England at Twickenham, but the Argentine side contained a blend of youth and significant experience and would be formidable opposition.
When international rugby began in 1871 it was a twenty-a-side game dominated by forward play and protracted scrummaging. In 1877 the number of players was reduced to fifteen. Over the following decade and a half the number of forwards slowly decreased as the number of backs slowly increased and teams discovered the benefits of a more attacking, open game, utilising running and passing backs. This extract from Frank Marshall’s 1892 book ‘Football the Rugby Union Game’ describes this evolution and pays special notice to Alan Rotherham, credited as the innovator behind the development of the half-back role.
Clint Morales McGregor was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1952. He arrived alone in the UK in 1964, following his mother who had come over in 1960. His first school was Priory Vale, Hornsey. At Tollington Grammar School in Muswell Hill, the rugby master encouraged Clint to join Finchley RFC in 1967 where he played for an exceptionally strong Colts XV. In due course he moved to the adult game and made his debut in the first team.
For a tight head prop Clint was quick, in the club there were only two wingers that could beat him in a sprint. With his powerful physique and good hands he was hard to stop. In one 1st XV game against Wanstead they made the mistake of kicking off to Clint. He made a solo run beating tackle after tackle. The full back lined him up perfectly but Clint crashed through to score. About twenty minutes later the whole thing was repeated. The full back lined Clint up perfectly but at the last second dived out of his way (and nobody criticised him for doing it)! Continue reading →
As a young boy in 1984, I was heavily influenced by sport (as I am now). I was interested in most sports, especially sporting events on these shores. In football, I had Liverpool, a dominant force for the majority of the 1980s. In athletics, I loved the rivalry of middle-distance runners, Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, not too mention a pretender to the throne, Steve Cram. In rugby, I had started to go with family members to watch Cardiff RFC and was soon pretending to be Mark Ring, Gareth Davies or Terry Holmes in my back garden. At this point in rugby, I had not yet been influenced heavily by overseas teams, this was all about to change, Australia was soon to turn my young head, and new heroes were on the horizon. Continue reading →
A few weeks before the last year’s Rugby World Cup, an article was posted on a website of Kyoto Shimbun (newspaper). The story featured Ishi Fukui, a woman who ran a sporting goods business from 1922 in Kyoto. The writer of the article implicitly implied Ishi might have been the creator of the Japan international jersey with three cherry blossom buds, which was first worn during Canada tour in 1930.
In the account, a grandson of Ishi, Kenichi Takada, 70, makes intriguing mention of his grandmother’s work reminiscing the stories he heard in his childhood from his family and relatives. Continue reading →
The opening match of the 5 Nations Championship in 1913 was beset with problems from the outset. The original venue for the match, Stade Colombes in Paris, was flooded so the rugby match between France and Scotland on New Year’s Day was moved at a late stage to the Parc des Princes.
France had beaten Scotland 16-15 on their previous visit to Paris in 1911 so expectations were high among the French public that their team would win the match. 25,000 spectators cheered their team on as they took an early lead with an unconverted try by one of their three new caps, forward Jean Sebedio from Tarbes. Scotland hit back with two tries in five minutes from their right wing, WA ‘Bill’ Stewart, a Scottish sprint champion born in Tasmania and a medical student at the London Hospital. His second try was converted by their Scottish captain, FH ‘Fred’ Turner to give Scotland an 8-3 lead and there was no scoring during the remainder of the first half. Continue reading →