Ask John
Odd socks and bi-lingual referees
John Griffiths
June 20, 2013
The Barbarians front row in their odd socks, British & Irish Lions v Barbarians, Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong, June 1, 2013
The Barbarians front row in their odd socks © Getty Images

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

Why did the Barbarians players wear different socks in the game against the Lions in Hong Kong on June 1st? Luc, China

It is a tradition that players appearing for the Barbarians always wear their club socks - hence the differences among the players in the Lions tour opener.

The other long-held tradition in the Barbarians is that at least one of their starting XV should be an uncapped player. In the recent match against the Lions, the Barbarians fielded three uncapped players in their run-on team: full-back Jared Payne, centre Elliot Daly and back-rower Sam Jones.

Who was the first replacement to take part in a Lions rugby tour and what is the highest number of replacements called for on a Lions tour? Graham, England

There is no new thing under the sun. One hundred and twenty five years ago the first Lions tourists to Australia were so hard-pressed that three guest players were recruited to make up the numbers during rugby union matches in Australia. David McSwaine, a Queensland reserve at the time, turned out for the tourists in their fixture with the Queensland Juniors and a week later local players Thomas Bryce and Deacon Wadsworth were seconded to the Lions pack for the game against Ipswich Rangers.

Those pioneers of 1888 also played a series of Aussie Rules matches in Victoria where they called on two guest players to bolster their playing strength: Colin Chapman (a former England threequarter who was teaching in Melbourne at the time of the tour) and Tom Scarborough.

Until the 1930s the Lions usually relied on British/Irish players who were expats resident in the host country to call on for replacement duties. The 1924 team in South Africa, for instance, turned to Ireland's Bill Cunningham and former England wing Stan Harris (who was a South African by birth) to act as emergency cover when the back division was depleted through injury.

The first Lion to fly out as cover was the Wales teenager Lewis Jones, who went to New Zealand and Australia in 1950 to replace Ireland's full-back, George Norton.

The record number of replacements called on tour to date is eight during the 1980 Lions tour of South Africa: Andy Irvine, Paul Dodge, John Robbie, Steve Smith, Tony Ward, Phil Orr, Ian Stephens and Gareth Williams.

The previous record for an Australian tour was seven - in 2001: Scott Gibbs, Tyrone Howe, Andy Nicol, Gordon Bulloch, Martin Corry, David Wallace and Dorian West.

British and Irish Lions captain Finlay Calder arrives at Heathrow Airport following a 2-1 victory in the Test series against Australia. Lons Tour, Heathrow Airport, London, England, July 25, 1989
Lions captain Finlay Calder arrives at Heathrow Airport after his team had come from behind to win in 1989 © PA Photos
Please list all the Test series the Lions have won after losing the opening Test? John Stevens, Wales

The Lions have come from behind to win two Test series in the past - both against Australia. In 1899 Australia made their Test debut with a series against Rev Mullineux's British & Irish side. They opened the series on June 24, 1899 with a convincing 13-3 win against the Lions at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

For many years a bone of contention among Lions tourists was that their Tests were invariably controlled by referees from the host nation. That was not true, however, of that inaugural match. Mr William "Gun" Garrard of New Zealand was invited as a neutral to officiate in front of a crowd of 27,000. The Lions recovered from the disappointment of that defeat to win the three remaining Tests of the rubber - matches refereed by Australian officials.

The only other occasion when the Lions came from behind to take a rubber was 24 years ago. Finlay Calder's team were beaten 30-12 at the Sydney Football Stadium (SFS) on July 1, 1989 before winning at Ballymore (19-12) and back at the SFS (19-18) in the third and final Test.

When was the last time France were scoreless in a Test? John Evans, Wales

Their 30-0 defeat in Christchurch last weekend was their first failure to score against the All Blacks in a series that dates back to 1906. New Zealand were held scoreless by the French in a 3-0 reverse in Paris in 1954 when French captain Jean Prat scored the only try of the match.

The last time France failed to score in any Test was against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1990. They were beaten 21-0 by a Scottish side on its way to the Grand Slam. France finished that match with only 14 men, flanker Alain Carminati receiving his marching orders from England's Fred Howard in the second half for stamping on Scotland's John Jeffrey. France were trailing 3-0 at the time and had just turned round to play with a strong wind in their favour in the second half. Carminati transferred to Rugby League soon after.

Twelve months earlier the French had been held scoreless (11-0) by Will Carling's England side at Twickenham.

Is it true that Alain Rolland referees France more than any other nation? JM, New Zealand

The former Ireland scrum-half who will be 47 in August is bi-lingual. His father is French and his mother Irish, but he has refereed New Zealand more often than France.

Last Saturday's New Zealand - France clash in Christchurch was his 66th Test match in charge. He has now refereed France 15 times and controlled New Zealand on 16 occasions since taking charge of his first cap-match (Wales v Romania in Cardiff) in 2001.

He has been on the panel of referees for the last three RWC tournaments and was in charge of the 2007 Final between South Africa and England in Paris.

Twice he has sent players off during Test matches involving France. During the 2007 RWC he sent off Jacques Nieuwenhuis of Namibia in a pool match and in the last tournament he dismissed Wales's captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous tackle on Vincent Clerc during the RWC semi-finals.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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