January 27 down the years
'A dramatic start...what a score!'
The Barbarians beat the All Blacks 23-11 in Cardiff in what was described as the 'match of the century', an epithet that probably owes as much to the fact it was on TV and because of that try. Chris Lander in the Daily Mirror described it as follows: "I defy anybody to name a more breathtaking, more stunning, or more cutely-conceived try than the Barbarians' first one in the third minute.. It could not have had more innocent beginnings as Phil Bennett fielded a kick from Bryan Williams ten yards from his own line. Bennett, weaving and dancing, first backwards and then sideways, avoided three All Blacks In a piece of pure poetry. He went to the left and John Pullin, the hooker, linked up. John Williams came in on cue next, and around the half-way line Dawes, Tom David and Derek Quinnell stepped up the momentum with a horde of All Blacks frenziedly chasing back. This was the moment for Gareth Edwards to contribute the crushing finale to the finest move."
Almost as famous as the try in that game was the crisp and passionate commentary on the BBC of Cliff Morgan. "Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alistair Scown. Brilliant, Oh, that's brilliant. John Williams... Pullin, John Dawes. Great dummy. David, Tom David, the half-way line. Brilliant by Quinnell. This is Gareth Edwards. A dramatic start...what a score!" What is less well known is that Morgan was only in the commentary box as a replacement for Bill McLaren who had cried off with flu minutes before the game. "No-one knew what to do," Morgan said. "Then they all started looking at me, and said 'you'll have to do it Cliffy, you know all the players', and that's how it happened: I just went up the metal ladder, into the box, and got the headphones on."
Alarm bells among the blazers as the RFU revealed the game was likely to be £6 million down on projections for the coming season. The shortfall was felt by the Premiership clubs who were supposed to share £3.8 million but instead were left divvying up nothing. The main reason was the lack of autumn internationals because of the World Cup and a collapse in the value of TV rights following 9/11 - the Six Nations earned £70 million for three years rather than the expected £100 million. Leicester boss Peter Wheeler said clubs had to face reality "whether they make a wage cut across the board, reduce the size of squads or choose to have fewer international players. Wages are too high for the conditions in the industry."
A week after sailing from Southampton, Dave Gallaher's 'Original' All Blacks arrived in New York at a late hour for the American leg of their famous tour. They played two games against British Columbia, both heavy victories, in Berkeley and San Francisco and an exhibition match against a scratch New York side. The players were not happy with the end to their tour, organised by the NZRU. "This trip [to America] is a confounded nuisance," manager George Dixon is recorded as saying by the New Zealand Rugby Museum. "Would much rather have gone aboard the steamer to enjoy a six-week rest and immunity from letters, callers, newspapers and worries generally."
The calls for substitutes to be allowed grew ever louder after France, fielding five changes from the side that beat Scotland at Murrayfield, came from behind to beat Ireland 16-6 in Paris. Ireland's Mick Molloy was off the field for 25 minutes after cracking a bone in his leg, gallantly returning to hobble back to play the final 20 minutes, while Ken Kennedy was absent with a wrenched knee for 10 minutes. "Well, you've just got to get back if you can still drag your feet." Kennedy shrugged. " No international side can hope to win with 13 men."
Ireland, stung by a run of nine losses in ten matches, made eight changes for their match at Twickenham the following month, including picking Johnny Quirke at scrum-half - at 17 years and eight months old he was the second youngest man to play for his country. Such was the clamour for change that the XV named included AN Other in the centre, a post subsequently filled by another newcomer, Ray Hunter. The changes did not prevent Ireland losing 16-0.
France took to the field for a Five Nations match without flanker Jean Prat for the only time between 1947 and 1955, when he retired from Test rugby. The great Lourdes captain had 'flu and Ireland took advantage of his absence to win 9-8 in Dublin. Tom Clifford and Jimmy Nelson scored the Irish tries in a win for the forwards.
Inter-city unrest and for once train passengers directed their anger at the Welsh Rugby Union rather than British Rail after 500 supporters returning from an Exiles match in London were left without food or drink because the board has booked the restaurant car for a private party.