April 16 down the years
The coach stabbed in the back
Media reaction to the ousting of Brian Ashton as England coach, April 16, 2088
Media reaction to the ousting of Brian Ashton on this day in 2008 © Scrum.com

The RFU has had more than its fair share of embarrassing days, but the appointment of Martin Johnson on a three-year contract as team manager lacked sensitivity and class. Incumbent coach Brian Ashton found out he had been "offered" his old job of running the national academy when a Twickenham PR man read out the news to the media. Most saw that sop as an attempt to avoid paying him off. Ashton, who had been re-appointed four months earlier after leading England to the World Cup final, declined the kind invitation.

Whoops minister … the 17-year-old son of environment minister Caroline Spelman was banned from playing for 21 months after admitting taking banned substances. A student at Tonbridge, he took anabolic steroids and a growth hormone as he tried to recover from a knee injury. It was expensive all round for the family as it emerged his parents spent £60,000 in legal fees trying to obtain privacy injunctions to prevent the story making the papers.

Leeds produced a major Twickenham upset when they beat Bath 20-12 to win the Powergen Cup. In front of 60.347 fans the relegation favourites scored two first-half tries through Chris Bell and Andre Snyman and then embarked on a tireless defensive strategy which Bath, despite utterly dominating in terms of possession, rarely threatened to penetrate. Leeds won five subsequent league matches in succession to avoid the drop.

News broke that Colin Meads, All Black great, had retired after making more than 350 first-class appearances including a then record 55 Tests for New Zealand. Meads made his international debut against Australia in 1957, playing at flanker and No.8 before settling at lock for the majority of his caps. Meads, nicknamed 'Pinetree', was the archetypal New Zealand hard man. He played against three touring Lions sides, finishing on the wrong end of the Test series result only in 1971. His final Test came with a draw against the Lions in Auckland on that tour.

In an unofficial post-war tournament (before international rugby got underway again) a New Zealand Army team beat the Mother Country 11-3 at Twickenham.

Cardiff were beaten for only the second time in the season. Sid Judd's last-minute penalty miss consigned the champion Welsh club to a narrow 6-5 defeat against the Baa-Baas.

Prop forward Johnny Johnson - later a distinguished Test referee - scored a try to help the London Counties to a 22-11 victory over the Italian national side at Twickenham.

© Scrum.com

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