April 8 down the years
A debut to remember
Wales' debut tryscorer Gareth Cooper is congratulated by Colin Charvis on this day in 2001 © Getty Images
Gareth Cooper marked his Wales debut with a seventh-minute try to help defeat Italy 33-23 in Rome. Cooper partnered Neil Jenkins at half-back, while Wales' win was secured by two further tries from rampaging centre Scott Gibbs. Wales enjoyed a mixed-bag of a season, being beaten heavily by England before securing a draw with Scotland and a thrilling win over France besides their win in Rome.
In its seventh season of international matches there were strong signs that French rugby was making great strides. Their 18-8 defeat by England in Paris was one of their best defensive performances at Test level up to that time. England crossed for four tries however, through centre John Birkett, wings Henry Brougham and Alan Roberts and forward John Eddison.
France received a rapturous welcome taking the field at Lansdowne Road in Dublin for their game with Ireland at the height of The Troubles. With Ireland's political landscape being disputed elsewhere a try from George Stephenson and a penalty and conversion from winger Thomas Wallis secured an 8-3 win in front of 40,000 fans. But France fell foul of the referee for underhand behaviour in the closing stages and one of their number would have been sent off but for the intervention of the Irish captain.
The Gowerton cousins Haydn Tanner and Willie Davies were reunited at half-back in the Welsh side that lost 20-8 to the English in the Services' international staged at Gloucester. Tanner and Davies had found fame in the Swansea side that defeated the All Blacks 11-3 in 1935, the pair helping their side to victory despite still being pupils at Gowerton Grammar School. All Blacks skipper Jack Manchester called home to tell those waiting of news: "Tell them we have been beaten, but don't tell them it was by a pair of schoolboys".
Although sport was frowned on as frivolous at the start of the war, by the latter stages it was deemed morale-boosting and with large numbers of Commonwealth servicemen in Great Britain, high-quality games were common. On this day a New Zealand XV beat a South African XV 5-3 while a North of England XV defeated an Anzacs XV 13-11.
As France prepared for admission to what would become the Five Nations the following seaosn, they played against as many sides as they could. Kent visited Paris and in front of a large crowd at Parc des Princes thrashed the home side 51-8.
Cheshire beat Devon 5-3 to win the County Championship for only the second time. It took a replay and a stroke of luck. Minutes from time a drop-goal attempt by Devon's Mike Arscott hit the post and rebounded into play.
Ken Bush was the toast of Penarth for his outstanding display at fullback in the club's 3-3 draw against the Barbarians.