Full name Henry Vassall
Born October 22, 1860, Tadcaster
Died January 5, 1926, of Repton (aged 65 years 75 days)
Major teams England
|Test debut||England v Wales at Blackheath, Feb 19, 1881 match details|
|Last Test||Wales v England at Swansea, Dec 16, 1882 match details|
|Test Statsguru||Main menu | Career summary | Match list | Most tries | Tournament list|
Vassall won his first England cap when still only 20, making his debut in the 13-try Blackheath massacre of the first ever Wales team. He was more conspicuously involved than most, becoming the first player to score an international hat-trick before being overtaken by team-mate George Burton who crossed four times.
He scored again on the same ground in the 1881 Varsity match, leading Oxford to victory with a performance in which 'picking up close to the line (he) went over like a traction engine'. An England regular for two years, the last of his five caps was the first ever international in Wales, at Swansea in December 1882.
Vassall captained Blackheath in 1884-5, and as late as 1891 appeared as a threequarter in the veteran 'Old Crocks' team - also including Budd, Gurdon and Rugby Football Union chief Rowland Hall and good enough to hold Blackheath to a single score - whose photograph forms the frontispiece of the Rev Frank Marshall's Football : The Rugby Union Game (1892), the most important early book on the game.
By then his energies were firmly focussed off the field. For a decade from 1884 RFU treasurer, described by Hill in Marshall as 'as good a treasurer as an athletic body has ever had'. Suitably for a man who had devoted more thought than most to rugby, Vassall was author of the first book specifically written about the game in 1889, his efforts rounded off by a chapter of fulmination against professionalism by Budd. He also contributed a chapter on Oxford rugby to Marshall that is frustratingly reticent about one of the major influences on the university game - himself.
Marlborough and Oxford were followed by his third significant educational institution - Repton School. Joining as a master in 1885, he stayed for the rest of his life, dying in his 21st year as Bursar in January 1926.
Player, official, innovator, pioneering author. It adds up to quite a contribution to rugby, one best expressed by W John Morgan and Geoffrey Nicholson's verdict that he and Rotherham 'Were the men who knew the path away from the game's stone age'.