December 15 down the years
The extinguishing of the dying embers of amateurism
Bridging the divide between the amateur and professional eras ... © Getty Images
One of the last vestiges of amateurism died when Will Carling signed a £36,000-a-year contract with the RFU, turning down an offer reported to be worth six times that amount to join am Australian-based rebel circuit. "If you look at their contract, basically they own you lock, stock and barrel," he said. "They can tell you where to play, when to play and everything else that goes with it and that does not appeal to me."
England coach Clive Woodward poured cold water on reports South Africa's World Cup winner Joel Stransky could be picked for England. Stransky qualified on residency grounds the following year but Woodward, responding to speculation he could be drafted straight into the side, said: "I would have to be very desperate to do so and I would choose him with great reluctance and huge reservations. It would be a sad day for English rugby." That was that.
Wallabies forward George Smith capped off an outstanding season by being named the winner of the Australian Rugby Union Players' Association Medal for Excellence for the second year in a row. Smith enjoyed a very impressive 2008 becoming the most capped Australian flanker and also the most capped Wallabies forward - eclipsing the mark of lock John Eales. In addition to taking out the RUPA Medal, Smith was named the Super 14 Player of the Year Award, for the third consecutive year, and became the first player to win the John Eales Medal twice.
Colin Charvis, the most-capped forward in Welsh rugby history, made his first Test start playing in a Sunday match against the Springboks. Wales lost 20-37 in Cardiff.
In the era before the anti-apartheid movement really had widespread impact there was still opposition to the South Arican regime. Neath Athletic announced they had been forced to move their game against Natal University to a secret ground after the local council, which owned their pitch, refused to sanction the match. But no credit to the council having a collective conscience. They were concerned the pavilion would be damaged by protesters.
Irish rugby gave notice of its post-war strength as the international side defeated a strong British Army XV 19-3 at Ravenhill in an unofficial international match. A young Queen's University fly-half Jack Kyle made his representative debut on the Irish side.
Micky Steele-Bodger scored the first try of Harlequins' match against Cardiff, but a huge Twickenham crowd watched the Welshmen recover to succeed 23-3, Bleddyn Williams collecting two tries for the winners.
Australia turned down an approach from France to add a last-minute Test in Paris to the end of the their UK tour on the back of a thrilling game against the Barbarians. "I was exhausted before the game," said coach Alan Jones. "I'm ready for the grave now."
Mervyn Davies in the Daily Mirror launched a stinging attack on the greed of the WRU after it sold debenture tickets at Cardiff for £250 for ten years. At £12.50 per international Davies wrote he felt "sorry for the loyal supporters who cannot afford that sort of price". At today's prices that would be around £70 a match.
France needed a late try by Jean Dupuy to hold Romania to a 6-6 draw in bitterly cold conditions in Toulouse.