- Ask Steven
Record on the riseJohn GriffithsMarch 15, 2014
How has the Test cap record now held by Brian O'Driscoll evolved down the years of international rugby? asks Brian Davis
Brian O'Driscoll made his 140th Test appearance - 132 for Ireland and eight for the British/Irish Lions - in Ireland's match against Italy to overtake the record held by Australia's George Gregan.
The first international match was played on 27th March 1871 when Scotland beat England at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh by a goal and a try to a try … in the days long before scoring by points was introduced.
That match was 20-aside …. so that on 31st December 1871 there were forty players sharing the world cap record. The record, at ten-year intervals, has progressed as follows:
|31 December 1881||13||RW Irvine||Scotland|
|31 December 1891||29||WE Maclagan||Scotland/BI|
|31 December 1901||33||WJ Bancroft||Wales|
|31 December 1911||33||WJ Bancroft/RM Owen||Both Wales|
|31 December 1921||35||RM Owen||Wales|
|31 December 1931||42||GV Stephenson||Ireland|
|31 December 1941||42||GV Stephenson||Ireland|
|31 December 1951||42||GV Stephenson||Ireland|
|31 December 1961||52||JW Kyle||Ireland/BI|
|31 December 1971||63||M Crauste||France|
|31 December 1981||81||CMH Gibson||Ireland/BI|
|31 December 1991||93||S Blanco||France|
|31 December 2001||111||P Sella||France|
|31 December 2011||139||GM Gregan||Australia|
The only significant record-holders not shown by this method are Jean Prat (France) who briefly held it (51) in the 1950s (Jackie Kyle overtaking him in 1958) and Willie-John McBride (Ireland/British/Irish Lions), who retired on 80 Tests altogether in 1975 and was overtaken by his compatriot Mike Gibson a few years later. McBride's figure included a record 17 Tests for the Lions.
Ireland's George Stephenson held the cap record longest. He overtook Dickie Owen when he played against France on 31st December 1928 and held it until Prat played his 43rd game for France in February 1954 - the day he scored the only try in his country's 3-0 maiden victory over the All Blacks.
Philippe Sella was the first man to play in 100 Tests, reaching the milestone against New Zealand in 1994.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.