January 31 down the years
Bath break France's European stranglehold
Mark Regan, Ieuan Evans and Mike Catt celebrate with the Heineken Cup in 1998 © Getty Images

Bath beat Brive in Bordeaux to become the first English club to win the Heineken Cup. They broke the French stranglehold on the tournament thanks to a gutsy performance from fullback Jon Callard, who scored all of their points in a 19-18 victory. The only try of the game was his and 80 seconds into injury time he struck the winning penalty. It was the first time in the game that Bath had been ahead. The game was won and lost in a pressure-packed few minutes that saw Brive camped on Bath's line and nine points ahead, but the champions refused to buckle.

Selector bashing is nothing new. The newspapers had a field day as England named an almost unchanged XV to play Ireland on the back of a dismal 4-3 win over Wales. The Daily Mirror's rugby correspondent was having none of it. "I can only assume that the selectors once more have decided upon safety first, and I can say quite definitely that if much more of this sort of thing goes on it will eventually kill international rugby as a spectacle. All that appears possible now is either to get some new selectors or adopt a better attitude to the game." England beat Ireland 9-8.

In amateur days Welsh rugby faced a constant challenge to hold on to players in the face of rugby league clubs waving cheque books. Colin Evans, a week after making his debut for Wales at Twickenham, left Pontypool to sign for Leeds for £3000. He went on to win two caps for Wales at league as well as representing Rest of the World.

England lock Brian Black showed his versatility by taking the two-man bobsleigh title for Great Britain at the world championships in Italy. Black was in fact South African, qualifying, as many did at the time, by virtue of having gone to university in England. His partner for "GB" in the bob was an Australian. Black was killed in a flying accident in 1940.

The Barbarians staged their first match against a major tour side and won 9-6 against Australia at Cardiff. The game was hastily arranged to raise funds for the Wallabies of that year to play exhibition matches in North America on their way home from a tour of Britain and France. The Wallabies had beaten England 11-0 at Twickenham and lost to France in Colombes before heading to the Arms Park to face the newly-assembled Baa Baas. The game, won by the Barbarians, was such a success, with 45,000 turning out, that it was coined as the 'Final Challenge' match, which would from then on be contested by a touring southern hemisphere side and the Baa Baas.

On their way home from Britain and Ireland the Wallabies played their first Test on American soil for 64 years, winning 24-12 against the Eagles at Glover Field in Anaheim in front of 6,000 spectators.

The IRB ruled that the only sin-binned players who could be replaced were front-row scrummagers. In such circumstances another player nominated by his captain had to leave the field for the front-row replacement to take the field.

Newcastle, on their way to upsetting the old order by winning the RFU's Allied Dunbar League title, had to work hard at Franklin's Gardens for a 21-17 win against Northampton. Rob Andrew's 11 goal points support tries from James Naylor and Inga Tuigamala for the Falcons.

The IRB gave notice of a North v South inter-hemisphere match to be staged at Twickenham in March to raise funds for the Tsunami Relief Appeal.

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