Ask John
Oxbridge queries, first four-point tries, 1995 RWC survivors and All Black boxers
John Griffiths
December 20, 2010
Ireland's Mike Gibson in action for Cambridge, Cambridge v Oxford, Varsity Match, England, January 1, 1966
Ireland international Mike Gibson featured in three Varsity Matches for Cambridge © Getty Images

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 Oxbridge, the first four-point tries by major nations, Dr. 'Joe' Kraefft, 1995 Rugby World Cup survivors and All Black boxers.

How many Oxbridge Blues played international rugby? Mark Spencer, England

Nearly 600 Rugby Blues have won rugby international caps - a figure that excludes the small band of international players who missed their Blues while in residence.

Here's how the figures break down (pre-1969 first, then 1969 to date, and finally the totals:

Capped by - Pre-69 - 69-on - TOTAL

England - 265 - 25 - 290
Scotland - 133 - 12 - 145
Ireland - 15 - 9 - 24
Wales - 58 - 10 - 68
South Africa - 6 - 3 - 9
New Zealand - 3 - 4 - 7
Australia - 7 - 10 - 17

Others - 2 - 19 - 21

TOTAL - 489 - 92 - 581

So nearly 500 Blues were or became internationals in the period up to 1969 (with fewer than 4% being capped outside the Home Unions - in those days overseas Blues, especially those from South Africa, tended to be capped by England or Scotland).

Nearly 100 Blues since 1968 have become international players, with a considerable rise in overseas players to more than a third (including the first Japanese and Canadian Test players).

Several players have been counted twice: for instance George Aitken (Oxford) was capped by NZ and Scotland; "Johnnie" Wallace (Oxford) by Australia and Scotland; and post-war Barry Holmes (Cambridge) was capped by both England and Argentina in 1949, while more recently Ian Williams (Oxford) played for both Australia and Japan in Tests.

Can you supply the results of the Varsity matches that featured Rob Andrew (England), Gavin Hastings (Scotland) and Mike Gibson (Ireland)? Huw B, England

They represented Cambridge University as follows:

Rob Andrew - 1982 (Won 20-13), 1983 (Won 20-9) and 1984 (Won 32-6)
Mike Gibson - 1963 (Won 19-11), 1964 (Lost 6-19) and 1965 (Drawn 5-5 as captain)
Gavin Hastings - 1984 (Won 32-6), and 1985 (Lost 6-7 as captain)

Each was capped after securing his Blue. Gibson was such a sensation in his first match in December 1963 that he was then drafted into the Ireland side for his debut in February 1964 in a famous 18-5 Ireland win against England at Twickenham.

Was Scotland's John Frame the first person to score a four-point try in a major international? Who were the first scorers of four-point tries in the major playing countries? Ian Monzari, New Zealand

The four-point try came into operation from 1st September, 1971. The first such try scored in a major Test was by France's Jean-Claude Skrela against Australia in Toulouse in November 1971.

At the time, the major Test-playing nations were regarded as the Five Nations in Europe and the Tri-Nations in the southern hemisphere. The first tries valued at four points scored for them were as follows:

Scorer - For - Against - Date
J-C Skrela - France - Australia - 20.11.1971
R D L'Estrange - Australia - France - 20.11.1971
C M Telfer - Scotland - France - 15.01.1972
J P R Williams - Wales - England - 15.01.1972
J J Moloney - Ireland - France - 29.01.1972
C W Ralston - England - Ireland - 12.02.1972
J P Dougan - New Zealand - Australia - 19.08.1972
P A Cronjé - South Africa - British&Irish Lions - 27.07.1974

After reading the obituary for the 1947-48 Wallaby, "Joe" Kraefft, I wondered how many survivors there are from that first official post-war tour to Europe by a Dominion side. Do you have any details? Matthew Thomas, Australia

Dr Donald Frederick "Joe" Kraefft was born in North Sydney on 20th July 1922 and died on 14th November 2010, aged 88. He was educated at Shore Grammar School and made his debut in senior club rugby with Sydney University, where he was an engineering student, in 1941.

He represented New South Wales and made his Aussie Test debut alongside Nick Shehadie (also on Test debut) against New Zealand at the SCG in 1947.

On the 1947-48 tour of the Third Wallabies to Britain, Ireland, France and North America Kraefft formed the first-choice second-row with Graeme Cooke for all five of the Tests played, the versatile Shehadie moving to prop. France alone of the Five Nations crossed the tourists' line in the Tests.

It is believed that there are seven survivors of that Wallaby tour: Sir Nicholas Shehadie, Terry MacBride, Eric Tweedale, Mick Cremin, Dr Max Howell, Arthur Buchan and Kevin Bourke.

After Mike Catt's recent retirement, was he the last still playing first class rugby who played in the 1995 Rugby World Cup? Ryan Miller, South Africa

Andrew Mehrtens, New Zealand's first five-eighth in the 1995 Rugby Wiorld Cup, has been playing for Béziers this season in France's Fédérale 1 - the equivalent of third division rugby over there. (There are 14 clubs contesting the Championnat in the top division and 16 in the Pro D2).

Jonah Lomu, who was the player of the tournament in 1995, appeared in the squad list for Marseilles (one league lower in Fédérale 2) at the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

With Sonny Bill Williams given the green light to resume his boxing career, have any other New Zealand Test players won boxing honours? Graham, England

Now that rugby is a professional sport, instances of dual internationals (or high achievement at two major sports) have become increasingly rare.

The most notable New Zealand Test players to box were:

M J Brownlie (NZ amateur heavyweight championship runner-up 1921)
B A Killeen (Amateur bantamweight finalist in the Wellington amateur championships)
M J McHugh (NZ amateur heavyweight champion 1938)
K L Skinner (NZ amateur heavyweight champion 1947)
W J Whineray (NZ Universities amateur heavyweight champion in 1955 and 1956)

All Black non-Test players who achieved boxing honours include B V McCleary, a member of the famous "Invincibles" who toured Britain, Ireland, France and North America in 1924-25. He won the New Zealand heavyweight and light-heavyweight titles in 1922 before turning professional.

J T Burrows, A G McCormick (father of Test full-back Fergi) and W L Elvy were other non-Test All Blacks who were distinguished amateur boxers.

The only Home Union international to box professionally was the former Wales centre Jerry Shea who operated at the welterweight and middleweight divisions. His most famous opponent was Ted "Kid" Lewis, the former world welterweight title-holder.

The best Olympic boxing achievement by a rugby union international was the Silver medal won by R L "Snowy" Baker as a middleweight at the 1908 games (where he was beaten by the England Test cricketer J W H T Douglas). Baker had gained two rugby union caps for Australia against the 1904 British/Irish Lions.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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