January 26 down the years
The freezing birth of modern rugby

It all began with a meeting of 21 clubs in London's Pall Mall Restaurant on a freezing January evening. Those clubs drew up the rules of the game according to those played at Rugby School and so the RFU was born. The union is the oldest in world rugby, and their first challenge was to decide on whether the game should stay amateur or go professional. As an established club, the delegates from Wasps RFC were invited to attend the event, but they went to the wrong hostelry on the wrong day and at the wrong time and although they may have enjoyed the fare, they missed out on being a founder member of the RFU.

Hardly Bloodgate but something for the tabloids to get their teeth into. Thirteen-year-old Kim Oliver was defying an RFU ruling barring girls of her age playing with boys and the papers lapped it up. "They say the game is too physical for girls but I like the physical side," she said. Her mother, who supported her stance, offered sage medical wisdom. "A doctor told me girls' bits are better protected than men's." Oliver went on to play 43 times for England.

A double salvo from Jimmy McCarthy meant the openside flanker was the toast of the Irish contingent in Paris as it helped his side to an 11-8 win at Stade Colombes. McCarthy's second try saw him race home from 40 yards, outrunning four would be tacklers in the process. Debutant John Notley scored a conversion, and Noel Henderson kicked a penalty for the visitors who have only won twice in Paris since. Ireland raced into an 11-0 lead on a bitterly cold day in the French capital, and they weathered a second half come back thanks to a huge forward effort. The win preserved Ireland's unbeaten post-war record in Paris.

On the day the Springboks said they would rest key players ahead of the 'fifth Test' against the Barbarians, the invitational side's president explained their selection policy for the big game. "I scribble down a list of chaps I think might fit in and send copies to the secretary … it's chewed over and if there are points of difference, our local committeemen in the different Home Unions give an opinion. Eventually we arrive at a side." And as for preparations ahead of the match? "Coaching? Of course not. The chaps have a discussion over lunch."

Cirencester RFC came under fire after it withdrew an dinner invitation to England and British Lions prop Mike Burton because he had recently been sent off. "If there was an award for pettiness and meanness I would nominate Cirencester to win it hands down," wrote Chris Lander in the Daily Mirror.

France winger Christian Darrouy scored a hat-trick of tries during a 24-5 win against Ireland at Lansdowne Road. The Irish Times was fulsome in its praise of the French effort with the report leading with the introduction; "When left-wing Darrouy trotted, at walking pace, from near the dead ball line and placed the ball down quietly between the posts, two minutes from full-time at Lansdowne Road, Irish rugby had been dissected in the most painful manner by fifteen superb French athletes."

In only their second match against a major touring side, the Barbarians were beaten 17-3 by South Africa at Cardiff after holding the tourists to 3-3 in the first half. The Barbarians, who were without their first choice half backs missed some good chances to score a try after W.I.D. Elliott's opener, and they were punished by the tourists for whom Paul Johnstone scored a converted try.

Scotland opened their Triple Crown campaign with a 5-4 victory over Wales. A try from winger James Gowans and full back Allan Smith's conversion were enough to see the Scots home on a frozen pitch at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh. Wales' only points came from the boot of Billy Bancroft.

French dominance of The first European Challenge Shield continued as Bourgoin defeated Castres 18-9 in a try-less final in Béziers in front of a crowd of 10,000.

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