Ask John
Leading Test captains, Cricketing rugby internationals and Aussie Grand Slam tours
John Griffiths
August 2, 2009

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition, John offers an insight into rugby's cricketing connection and has a look at the most-capped Test skippers.

Q. Who are the top ten Test rugby captains now that John Smit has become the world record-holder? Anon

A.Smit captained South Africa for the 60th time at Kings Park, Durban on Saturday, in the Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand, overtaking the previous record shared between Will Carling and George Gregan. The list of the top ten currently reads:

60 - J W Smit, South Africa
59 - W D C Carling, England
59 - G M Gregan, Australia
57 - B G O'Driscoll, Ireland/Lions
55 - J A Eales, Australia
51 - S B T Fitzpatrick, New Zealand
46 - H Porta, Argentina/Jaguars
45 - M O Johnson, England/Lions
42 - F Pelous, France
41 - L Arbizu, Argentina
41 - R Ibañez, France

Q. On Test Match Special during a break in play at the Edgbaston Test, Geoff Boycott posed the question: "Who played international rugby and Test cricket for his country and refereed/umpired both sports at Test level?" What is the answer? Anon

A.The only player to hold this distinction is the New Zealander Eric Tindill who, in his 99th year, is New Zealand's oldest surviving rugby international.

He won his only Test rugby cap for the All Blacks as their first five-eighth in Obolensky's famous match in 1936 when England beat New Zealand 13-0 at Twickenham. He played Test cricket as a wicket-keeper for New Zealand between 1937 and 1947.

Between 1950 and 1955 he refereed three rugby Tests and in 1959 stood in the cricket Test between New Zealand and England at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, where he had refereed the All Blacks-Lions Test in 1950.

Q.Have any rugby internationals featured in Ashes Test Cricket series? Anon

A.There have been more than a dozen winners of dual Rugby Union / Cricket Test honours, but only eight have featured in The Ashes, two for Australia and six for England.

Rugby internationals who played for Australia in Ashes Cricket

Otto Nothling - First Ashes Test 1928 - 19 rugby Tests for Australia 1921-24
Sammy Woods - First Ashes Test 1888 - 13 rugby Tests for England 1890-95

Nothling's claim to fame was that he was the only man for whom Sir Don Bradman was dropped during his Aussie cricket career. Nothling replaced "The Don" for the second Test of the 1928-29 Ashes series. Woods was born in Sydney, played for Australia in the 1888 Ashes and came to England before studying at Cambridge University. After winning his last rugby cap he also played Test cricket for England, though not in an Ashes series.

Rugby internationals who played for England in Ashes Cricket

Albert Hornby - First Ashes Test 1879* - 9 rugby Tests for England 1877-82
Gregor MacGregor - First Ashes Test 1890 - 13 rugby Tests for Scotland 1890-96
Mike (MJK) Smith - First Ashes Test 1961 - One rugby Test for England 1956
Reg Spooner - First Ashes Test 1905 - One rugby Test for England 1903
Andrew Stoddart - First Ashes Test 1888 - 10 rugby Tests for England 1885-93
George Vernon - First Ashes Test 1882 - 5 rugby Tests for England 1878-81.

* Hornby played three cricket Tests against Australia and was England's captain at The Oval in 1882 when The Ashes came into being (after England had been defeated by seven runs).

He and Stoddart are the only ones who have captained England at both games. Stoddart led the side that retained The Ashes in Australia in 1894-95. Earlier in his sporting career he had stayed on in Australia after his first cricket tour in 1888 to take part in the first-ever Lions rugby tour. MacGregor, the only Scottish rugby international in the lists, was a wicketkeeper. M J K Smith was an outside-half who partnered Dickie Jeeps for England against Wales at Twickenham in 1956 when their opposing halves were Cliff Morgan and Onllwyn Brace. Smith later captained England in the 1965-66 Ashes series in Australia.

Q.Jaque Fourie has scored a Test try against 15 nations. Has anybody else done this? Adam, New Zealand

A.It's the record for a South African. Joost van der Westhuizen, the Springboks' leading Test try-scorer, crossed against a dozen different opponents.

Both David Campese (Australia) and Gareth Thomas (Wales and Lions) have 15 different opponents on their try-scoring logs, but the world record of this kind is held by the Japanese wing, Daisuke Ohata, who in the course of his 58-Test career between 1996 and 2006 notched up tries against 20 different opponents. All told, Ohata scored 69 tries for Japan, also a world record.

Q.Could you give me a list of the 1981-82 and 1984 Australia Grand Slam Matches please? Daniel Hall, England

A.Australia's only winning Grand Slam tour of the Home Unions was in 1984. Their matches were as follows:

Nov 3, 1984 v England Won 19-3 Twickenham
Nov 10, 1984 v Ireland Won 16-9 Lansdowne Road
Nov 24, 1984 v Wales Won 28-9 Cardiff
Dec 8, 1984 v Scotland Won 37-12 Murrayfield

The captain in all four matches was Andrew Slack, their fly-half Mark Ella scored a try in each of the Tests and the tour was the first major Test outing for both Michael Lynagh (capped once before against Fiji earlier the same year) and Nick Farr-Jones.

The 1981-82 Wallabies won one and lost three of their Tests in the Home Unions:

1981 Nov 21 , 1981 v Ireland Won 16-12 Lansdowne Road
Dec 5, 1981 v Wales Lost 13-18 Cardiff
Dec 19, 1981 v Scotland Lost 15-24 Murrayfield
1982 Jan 2, 1982 v England Lost 11-15 Twickenham

Q.Is it legal to head the ball - that is, to strike the ball with your head and have it go forward without it counting as a knock-on? Matt Shand, United States.

A.According to Law 12 the knock-on occurs when the ball goes forward (ie towards the opponent's dead-ball-line) off a player's hand or arm. It is not a knock-on if the ball rebounds off a player's head alone, nor when it goes forward off the arm or hand when a player charges down the ball as an opponent kicks it or immediately after the kick.


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