December 18 down the years
'All Welshmen are breathing a sigh of relief'
Bath wing Matt Banahan powers over in the corner against Ulster in 2010 ... but Bath crashed out of the Heineken Cup after losing the match © Getty Images

"All Welshmen are breathing a sigh of relief at the news Jonathan Davies has turned down a £100,000 plus offer to turn to rugby league," wrote Barry John the Daily Express. "This being World Cup year, I cannot see him signing for any League club now." He was right about that, but Davies did eventually make the switch in 1988.

Bath's wretched form hit a low as they lost 26-22 in the bitter cold at home to Ulster and exited the Heineken Cup in the pool stage for the second season running. What's more, they did so with two matches remaining. ""Frankly we thought we could top this group and we should be aiming for a quarter-final," shrugged coach Steve Meehan. He left the club at the end of the season.

Budweiser announced a £250,000 sponsorship of the first American Football league in the UK with an aim to take on rugby's traditional player and audience base. Chris Childs, the UK's first commissioners for the sport, was bullish. "There is a vast audience out there for a hard, clean family snort on Sunday afternoons. This is the start of something big." Yes, Chris, that certainly showed rugby.

The first New Zealand team to tour Wales arrived in Swansea to a rapturous welcome. The touring Maori brought only 20 of their squad of 26 for the Welsh leg of their British visit in order to save "unnecessary expense". The title of All Black 'Originals' went to the 1905 tour party, with this group of players christened the 'Natives' in part for promotional purposes. After assembling in May 1888 the side toured until August the following year, playing 107 matches including several Aussie Rules and football games.

Cross Keys fullback Ioan Bebb claimed Wales manager David Pickering tried to stop him taking legal action against Bridgend's Chris Stephens over the punch that forced him to retire after losing 25% of the sight in his eye. "It surprised me that he contacted me and it would have been hypocritical on my part to." A court ordered Stephens to pay £2000 in damages and complete 200 hours of community service. Bebb was angered that not only was Stephens not sent off but the WRU declined to take any action.

Former All Black fly-half Eric Tindill was born in Nelson. Tindill played one Test for the All Blacks in 1936 (the famous Obolensky Test against England) and holds the unique distinction of also representing his country in a cricket Test. He also refereed and umpired Tests.

Gloucester and England wing Lesley Vainikolo was charged with causing Grievous Bodily Harm after his involvement in a brawl outside a Bath nightclub. The altercation left a man in his 20s in hospital with what were originally thought to be "critical" injures, but he was later discharged. The incident occurred hours after Vainikolo had made an influential impact in Gloucester's Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Kingsholm, where he scored two tries. Charges against the player were eventually dropped after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

The RAF enjoyed a wonderful break from the coldest British winter for 15 years to play the Combined Services (Aden) in Khormaksar during a short tour of the Middle East. The visitors lost 3-0 to a second-half try.

The Welsh selectors are denied some last-minute preparation ahead of naming their teams for the final trial when the weather causes the postponement of every first-class weekend match in the Principality.

Alastair Hignell - previously capped by England as a fullback - played scrum-half for the 'Possibles' in the England trial at Twickenham and kicked his side to a 6-0 victory by landing two penalty goals.


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