Ask John
IRB Centenary matches, Irish try-scorers against New Zealand and snow-blighted seasons
John Griffiths
January 18, 2010

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 answers queries on the IRB Centenary matches, Ireland v England in 1880 and Irish try-scorers in matches against New Zealand.

I have been unable to source anywhere the teams in the British/Irish Lions v The Rest and Five Nations v Overseas XV matches which took place in April 1986. Can you help?
Bruce Sheekey, Australia
These two matches were staged to celebrate the Centenary of the foundation of the International Rugby Board. The first match, a midweek game at Cardiff, was unfortunately wrecked by wet weather. The Saturday game at Twickenham was played in ideal conditions. The results demonstrated the clear superiority of the southern hemisphere players.

Only players from the eight Unions then affiliated to the Board were involved.

British Lions 7 (1PG IT) The Rest 15 (2G 1PG) - April 16, 1986, Cardiff Arms Park

British Lions: A G Hastings (Scotland); T M Ringland (Ireland), B J Mullin (Ireland), J A Devereux (Wales), R Underwood (England); J Y Rutherford (Scotland), R N Jones Wales); J Whitefoot (Wales), C T Deans (Scotland) (captain), D C Fitzgerald (Ireland), W A Dooley (England), D G Lenihan (Ireland), J Jeffrey (Scotland), J R Beattie (Scotland), N J Carr (Ireland) Replacements I A M Paxton (Scotland) for Dooley; M Dacey (Wales) for Rutherford

Scorers Try: Beattie Penalty Goal: Hastings

The Rest: S Blanco (France); P Estève (France), A G Slack (Australia) (captain), M P Lynagh (Australia), J J Kirwan (New Zealand); W R Smith (New Zealand), N C Farr-Jones (Australia); E E Rodriguez (Australia), T A Lawton (Australia), G A Knight (New Zealand), S A G Cutler (Australia), S W P Burger (South Africa), M W Shaw (New Zealand), M G Mexted (New Zealand), S P Poidevin (Australia)

Scorers Tries: Farr-Jones, Poidevin Conversions: Lynagh (2) Penalty Goal: Lynagh

Referee R C Francis (New Zealand)

Five Nations 13 (1G 1PG IT) Overseas Unions 32 (1G 2PG 5T) - April 19, 1986, Twickenham

Five Nations: S Blanco (France); T M Ringland (Ireland), P Sella (France), M J Kiernan (Ireland), R Underwood (England); M Dacey (Wales), R J Hill (England); J Whitefoot Wales), S E Brain (England), I G Milne (Scotland), J Condom (France), D G Lenihan (Ireland) (captain), J Jeffrey (Scotland), I A M Paxton (Scotland), L Rodriguez (France)

Scorers Tries: Ringland (2) Conversion: Blanco Penalty Goal: Kiernan

Overseas Unions: R G Gould (Australia); J J Kirwan (New Zealand), D M Gerber (South Africa), W T Taylor (New Zealand), C J du Plessis (South Africa); H E Botha (South Africa), D S Loveridge (New Zealand); E E Rodriguez (Australia), A G Dalton (New Zealand) (captain), P R van der Merwe (South Africa), SAG Cutler (Australia), A M Haden (New Zealand), S P Poidevin (Australia), S N Tuynman (Australia), M W Shaw (New Zealand)

Scorers Tries: Gerber (2), Kirwan, du Plessis, Rodriguez, Shaw Conversion: Botha Penalty Goals: Botha (2)

Referee D I H Burnett (Ireland)

Following on from your story on hat tricks of tries scored against the All Blacks, has any player ever scored a hat trick of tries against South Africa? I know this has never been accomplished in a Test match but what about in other matches? Andrew de Klerk, South Africa
As you say, no-one has ever achieved the feat against South Africa in a Test. Moreover, in more than 700 Test and tour matches played by South Africa, no player has succeeded in scoring a hat-trick of tries against them.

The 1880 Ireland v England match has always been shown as having been played on 30 January. It must have been postponed because the contemporary match reports I've read say it was played on February 2? Cris Freddi, England
The rugby historian's bible as far as the events of the 19th century are concerned has always been the classic Football - The Rugby Union Game first published in 1892 and edited by Rev Frank Marshall. The chapter dealing with England's first decade of internationals, from 1871 to 1880, was written by Arthur Guillemard, who played in the 1871 and 1872 matches against Scotland and was the first man to serve the RFU in all five major offices - secretary, treasurer, senior vice-president, junior vice-president and president.

The 1880 match took place during his presidency and he gives its date as January 30 (which was a Friday) in Marshall's work. Subsequent official RFU publications (and many unofficial works) have persisted in reproducing this date. Your excellent research has now put the record straight as The Times, Irish Times and Manchester Guardian all confirm that the game was played on (Monday) February 2, the date that is now shown on's Statsguru database. On reflection it would have been odd for the match to have been staged on a Friday in those far off days as Mondays were the usual days for internationals in the 1870s.

In the last hundred years many Irish rugby players have played for English clubs. Have any scored a try against the All Blacks playing for an English, Welsh or Scottish based team?
Michael O Dwyer, Ireland
The first Irish internationalists to appear against the All Blacks on the British mainland were the three-quarters, Henry Anderson and Basil Maclear against the Original 1905 tourists. They turned out for both Blackheath and Bedford as guest players against Dave Gallaher's team. The first Irish international to score points against New Zealand on the mainland was the Cardiff fullback, Dr Tom Wallace, in 1924. He kicked a penalty goal and converted a try in the club's 16-8 defeat by an All Black side that went on to win every match of its tour of Europe and North America.

The only try against New Zealand scored by an Irish Test player for a mainland club was by the Cambridge University out-half, Mike Gibson, against Wilson Whineray's tourists in 1963. Gibson played so well that day (and in the Varsity Match barely a month later) that the Irish selectors fast-tracked him into the side that faced England at Twickenham a few months later. Two Irishmen - Fergus Slattery, at Cardiff in 1973, and Philip Matthews, at Twickenham in 1989 - scored tries for the Barbarians in matches against the All Blacks.

What was the rule change that enabled teams to form the rugby league style defence that is strung across the field?Peter Hughes, Wales
The point of the ruck was that it enabled an attacking side to suck opponents into a contact situation and opened up field space. Recycled ball could then be quickly moved into space with the hope that defences would eventually fall into disarray and leave scoring opportunities for the attacking side. Rucks often committed six or seven forwards from each side in a loose scrum formation around a tackled player and the tackler. It was an efficient source of good, second-phase possession and led to dynamic rugby, which the public wants to see.

About five years ago the IRB, anxious to preserve players' health and safety, outlawed boots on bodies at the ruck. The upshot has been that teams commit fewer players to the breakdown for fear of conceding penalties. Defence coaches have consequently advocated that the spare four or five forwards not involved at the breakdown remain uncommitted and act as defenders by fanning out rugby league style across the field.

Which previous seasons were most disrupted by snow? Anon
Three seasons stand out since World War II: the winters of 1946-47; 1962-63 and 1981-82. At a time when every match was called a "friendly" long before European, and domestic league games became embedded in club fixture schedules, the rugby calendar in Britain was severely disrupted in those seasons.

Two Five Nations matches in 1946-47 were postponed owing to heavy snow: the Wales v Ireland game at Swansea was put back three weeks to March 29 and the England v France game at Twickenham was postponed from February 22 and eventually played on April 19. Old-timers in 1947 claimed it was the most disrupted winter for rugby since 1878, when pitches were reputedly unplayable for nine weeks.

Surprisingly, there were no Five Nations postponements during the infamous winter of 1962-63, though in January and early February the Wales v England game at Cardiff and Scotland v Wales international (on the Murrayfield electric blanket) were virtually the only matches of the day.

The snow arrived early in 1981-82. Nearly ten centimetres unexpectedly fell on Twickenham on the eve of the Centenary Varsity match in December, only Herculean work by the RFU grounds team ensuring that the match went ahead. A month later, heavy overnight snow caused the cancellation of the Barbarians v Australia match at Cardiff scheduled for January 9, and the following week, while Scotland v England went ahead at Murrayfield in freezing temperatures, snow caused the Ireland v Wales match in Dublin to be postponed. There were also isolated weather interruptions in 1985 (when three Five Nations matches had to be re-scheduled) and 1987 (when two were).


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