‘Sunderland Rugger with a Dash of Schoolboy Rugby Beyond’

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

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Brave Blossoms exhibition in Tokyo

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.

Brave Blossoms in Tokyo 3

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.

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The 1st South Africa Tour to the UK and France 1906-07

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

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Beginner’s Guide to the Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2019 begins on Friday so it’s the perfect time to get up to speed with the world’s biggest rugby tournament!

Webb Ellis Cup

The Rugby World Cup in a Nutshell

The Rugby World Cup is a Rugby Union knockout tournament played every 4 years between the world’s top national teams. This year’s competition is taking place from 20th September until 2nd November, with 20 teams taking part.

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The Return of the Springbok Girl

One of the World Rugby Museum’s most beloved paintings has returned home after a long term loan period in South Africa and to celebrate we thought that we would share her tale with you.

Springbok Girl

The Springbok Girl before going on display

The story begins not with an artist but with a rugby team on their first ever international tour. In 1906 South Africa hoped to replicate the success of New Zealand’s tour the previous year and embarked on a voyage to visit England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France. After learning how New Zealand had been christened the All Blacks during their tour they did not wish to leave their nickname to chance (or the British press!) and so began referring to themselves as De Springbokken.  The Daily Mail misquoted this as the ‘Springboks’ and the name stuck.

The 3 and a half month tour saw the Springboks play rugby against some of the best teams that the 5 nations had. Not only did they play matches against the 5 national sides, they also played against many of the clubs from each of the countries – spreading the word of the Springbok prowess on the field. They won 26 out of the 29 matches that they played, losing only two and drawing one and with this the legend of the Springboks was born.

Now this is where our painting enters the story. Continue reading

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England v Ireland 1911, as told by Robert Collis

In the early days of Five Nations rugby it was common for international matches to feature ornately embroidered touch-flags such as this one that was used at Landsdowne Road in 1911. This particular match was much celebrated in Dublin as Ireland recorded a first win over England since 1907.

2001-56 6x4

The match was a close affair. England were reigning champions and wing Danny Lambert had scored no fewer than 22 points against France two weeks earlier. He was ably assisted by John Birkett at centre and the Stoop brothers (Adrian and Tim). Aware of the threat posed by the English backs, the Irish half-back pairing of Dickie Lloyd and Harry Read chose to pin the visitors in their own half with accurate place kicking. Continue reading

Posted in Countries, England, Ireland, Museum Collection | 1 Comment

England v Ireland 1988: The Nigel Melville Story

The Five Nations match between England and Ireland in March 1988 was a historic occasion for two reasons. First, it was the 100th encounter between the two countries. Second, after being 3-0 down at half time, England came out in the second half almost a changed side and won the game 35-3 thanks to a hat-trick of tries by Chris Oti (England’s first hat-trick at Twickenham for 64 years).

Chris Oti England 1988

Stunned by the turnaround from a team who hadn’t scored a single try in four consecutive test-matches, the watching faithful broke into song. It was the first recorded occasion that England fans sang the now familiar “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

But what caused the sudden change in play? And what happened to captain Nigel Melville? Continue reading

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