Ask John
The highest first-class points scorer, England's South African contingent and successive Grand Slams
John Griffiths
December 6, 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 questions on the highest first-class points scorer, England's South African contingent, successive Grand Slams and the oldest Test players from the Home Unions.

With Dan Carter having recently broken the Test points record I was curious as to who holds the all time points record for all first class matches? James Hothersall Australia

New Zealand's Grant Fox scored 4,112 points comprising 29 tries (of which 25 were valued at four points and four worth five), 901 conversions, 683 penalty goals and 47 dropped goals in 303 first-class matches between 1982 and 1995.

New Zealand do not recognise the matches played by the 1986 Cavaliers in South Africa as having first-class status. Fox was a member of the tour party and appeared in five of the matches, scoring 62 points (a try, five conversions, 13 penalty goals and three dropped goals).

His Cavaliers figures are excluded from those given in the previous paragraph. Naas Botha of South Africa accumulated 3,781 - 44 tries (including 42 worth four points and two at five points), 669 conversions, 545 penalty goals and 210 dropped goals - in 277 first-class appearances between 1977 and 1995.

South Africa do count the Cavaliers' tour matches as first-class. Botha played five times against the tourists - for North Transvaal and for the Springboks in the four 'Tests' - scoring 78 points (a try, seven conversions, 18 penalty goals and two dropped goals) which are included in the preceding figures.

In your last column, you stated that Graham Henry had won 98 Tests as coach. Many media sources reported the All Blacks win over Ireland as his 100th. The discrepancy arises in the Wales figures where you state that he won 20/34 with Wales whereas other sources say 22/36. Which matches aren't you counting? Paul Johns, New Zealand

Thanks - we had a number of queries regarding this point. Graham Henry notched up his 99th Test win as a coach with the defeat of Wales in Cardiff on the final weekend of the autumn internationals. That victory was his 78th with New Zealand. He had 20 Test wins as Wales coach (1998-2002) and one as Lions coach in Australia in 2001.

Lynn Howells officially coached the Welsh side that played (and won) two Tests in Japan in 2001 while Henry was on Lions Test duty, so Henry's overall Welsh record was 20/34 as stated in the last column.

New Zealand completed their third successive Grand Slam of the Home Unions with their recent victory over Wales. Has any other Tri-Nations country achieved more successive Grand Slams? Graham, England

None of the Home Unions, France or Italy has ever managed three or more successive Grand Slams in the Five or Six Nations championship.

Australia's only Grand Slam was achieved in 1984 and New Zealand has done it four times altogether - 1978 and then the three on the trot in 2005, 2008 and 2010.

South Africa, who have also secured four Grand Slams of the Home Unions, did so at successive attempts, admittedly with longer gaps between tours: in 1912-13; in 1931-32; in 1951-52 and 1960-61. Tours were longer four or five-month affairs in those days, straddling the New Year and often involving a visit to France. The Springboks additionally beat the French in 1913 and 1952 - the only five-Test Grand Slams of the Five Nations.

Andrew Small of New Zealand is due to referee the Varsity Match on Thursday. How many New Zealanders have officiated in this fixture? Hugh, England

The early Varsity matches were controlled by England international players or RFU officials. Rowland Hill, a long-standing RFU honorary secretary (1881-1904) and later President of the RFU took charge of a record seven matches between 1883 and 1890.

It was not until 1903, when Tom Williams of the Welsh Rugby Union refereed, that the honour went outside England. Crawford Findlay (1904) and John Gillespie (1905) were the first Scots to officiate, and Sam Crawford of the Irish Rugby Football Union took charge in 1920 when the fixture was staged at Queen's Club in Kensington for the last time (before moving to Twickenham).

The Welsh referee Gwynne Walters equalled Hill's record by refereeing seven matches between 1957 and 1966. Andrew Small will become the first New Zealander to take charge of the fixture.

During the autumn two players past their 37th birthdays represented Home Unions in major internationals. Can you list those players from the Home Unions who have represented their countries after their 37th birthdays? Stephen Coneglan, South Korea

The two were John Hayes of Ireland and Simon Shaw for England. Hayes became the first 37-year-old to play for Ireland and in so doing overtook Mike Gibson as the oldest player capped by them.

Although not all international players' dates of birth are known, Shaw passed Eric Evans in November to become - it is believed - England's third-oldest player. Top of the list is Fred Gilbert, a fullback who was nearly 39 when he won two caps in the 1923 England Grand Slam campaign. Paul Rendall, the prop knows as "the judge" was 37 years and 232 days when he made his last England appearance as a replacement against Italy at the 1991 World Cup.

Evans, who captained England between 1956 and 1958 when they won a Grand Slam, Triple Crown and two outright Championship titles, was 37 on February 1st 1958 and played his last Test a month later. Shaw was 37 years and two months old when he came on at Twickenham against Australia recently. Evans was a Sale hooker who took physical fitness very seriously, training with the famous "Busby Babes" at Manchester United in the 1950s. He consistently understated his age by four years, appearing as "Born 1925" in the official match programmes sold at Twickenham and in the rest of the Home Unions.

Scotland's oldest cap was Ian McLauchlan who was 37 years and 210 days when he made his last cap-match appearance in 1979. The same year, Wales's Charlie Faulkner won his last Welsh cap a few days short of his 38th birthday. The oldest Welsh international player, however, was the Newport scrum-half Tommy Vile who was 38 when he led his country against Scotland at Swansea in 1921.

Hendré Fourie is the latest in a long line of South African players to win Test honours for England. Do you have a complete list? John Stephens, England

It is believed that Fourie was the 29th South African capped by England. The list (which excludes players from other countries in southern Africa) reads as follows (with year of Test debut for England shown in brackets):

Stuart Abbott (2003)
Nick Abendanon (2007)
Geoff Appleford (2002)
Brian Black (1930)
Freddie Brooks (1906)
Mike Catt (1994)
James Davey (1908)
Hendre Fourie (2010)
Tim Francis (1926)
"Trilby" Freakes (1938)
Reg Hands (1910)
Stanley Harris (1920)
Murray Hofmeyr (1950)
John Hopley (1907)
Mike Horak (2002)
Jan Krige (1920)
Nick Labuschagne (1953)
Frank Mellish (1920)
"Jumbo" Milton (1904)
Sid Newman (1947)
Ossie Newton-Thompson (1947)
"Tuppy" Owen-Smith (1934)
Harry Small (1950)
Matt Stevens (2004)
Clive van Ryneveld (1949)
Fraser Waters (2001)
Steve White-Cooper (2001)
Rupert Williamson (1908)
"Tug" Wilson (1952)

Mellish, uniquely, also played Test rugby for the Springboks (between 1921 and 1924), while Hands, Owen-Smith and Van Ryneveld played Test cricket for South Africa.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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