Ask John
Rugby World Cup venues, the numbering of replacements and the 1976 Olympics
John Griffiths
April 25, 2011

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 World Cup venues, the numbering of replacements and the 1976 Olympics.

As a result of the Christchurch earthquake in February, Auckland's Eden Park will now stage matches in the pools, quarter, semi and final stages of the World Cup. Has any other venue managed to do so in past competitions? David Pritchard, England

AMI Stadium in Christchurch - Lancaster Park to the diehards - was due to host two of the quarter-finals, with Wellington staging the other two. The quarter-final matches originally scheduled for Christchurch have now been transferred to Auckland's Eden Park, meaning that for only the second time in Rugby World Cup history one venue will feature at every stage of a tournament - pool, quarters, semis and final.

Stade de France is the only arena that has hosted every stage of World Cup finals to date. The St. Denis ground staged pool games, the Argentina-Scotland quarter-final, both semi-finals and of course the final when the last World Cup was hosted by France (2007).

I am hoping you can shed some light on something for me. I read somewhere that New Zealand rugby was the cause of the withdrawal of some African countries from the 1976 Olympic Games in Canada. I have looked around for more information, but the cupboard is bare so to speak. Hedley Line, Brazil

During the apartheid years New Zealand honoured a full four-Test rugby tour of South Africa between June and September 1976, winning 18 of their 24 matches but losing the Test series 3-1. The three provincial matches lost were against Western Province (11-12), Northern Transvaal (27-29) and the Orange Free State (10-15). The All Blacks were led by Andy Leslie.

The Montreal Olympics, the first staged on Canadian soil, ran from July 17 to August 1 that year. More than twenty African nations (as well as Iraq and Guyana) protested at New Zealand's sporting links with South Africa. The protest turned into a boycott of the Games when the International Olympic Committee felt unable to bar New Zealand competitors (whose sporting organisations had no jurisdiction over the NZRU) from taking part in Montreal.

Allan Roy was, at 99, the oldest surviving Scottish international at the time of his death earlier this month. Who is the oldest surviving Scottish international now, and was Roy the longest-lived of all Scottish Test players? Graham, England

Allan Roy died at his Ainsdale home near Southport, Lancs, on April 16, less than a month short of his centenary. The oldest surviving Scottish international is now believed to be Bill Young, who appeared in the pack with Roy at Twickenham in 1938 when Scotland carried off the Triple Crown, securing the second of only four wins to date at the ground.

On the morning of that 1938 match one of the London newspapers provided short pen-pics of the thirty players due to take part. The entry for Young said: "Back-row. Former leader of the Cambridge pack. Is well built and very fast, but occasionally gets offside. Good in the line-out. Won a boxing blue at Cambridge." Young will be 95 early in May.

The longest-lived of all Scottish international players was James "Mac" Henderson who died in 2009, aged 101.

In regards to your recent column involving top class rugby players that have crossed codes to other games (not league), I was wondering why 20 times capped Canadian International Mike Pyke, who currently plays for the AFL's Sydney Swans, was left out? Was it because Canada is not a top tier nation? Scott de Haan, Canada

I know of another top-level rugby union player who played at the top level in another code - Richard Tardits. You might have skipped him because the highest level of American Football is not international competition, but rather the National Football League in the US. Tardits has an interesting story. He was developed at Biarritz, having been born and raised in that city, and played for France Under-21. However, he wound up playing American football at the University of Georgia, where he was a linebacker. He was chosen in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Phoenix Cardinals, now known as the Arizona Cardinals. However, he never played for that team; he would make his debut the next year for the New England Patriots. Tardits played in three seasons (1990-1992) before leaving the NFL. From the information I have, Tardits still played club rugby in the US during the NFL offseason. After leaving the NFL, he fully returned to rugby. Since he had been in the US since arriving at Georgia, he was immediately eligible to play for the USA, and made his first appearance for the Eagles in 1993. Tardits made 24 appearances for the Eagles, with his last in the 1999 World Cup. Dale Arnett, United States

Thanks to Scott and Dale for their detailed and interesting feedback. During the inaugural Lions tour to Australia in 1888 the tourists played 19 matches under "Victorian Rules". It was reported that Andrew Stoddart, the England threequarter who became one of only two men who have captained England at both rugby union and Cricket, was the star British player at Aussie Rules.

Among the top-tier international rugby union players who dabbled with American Football were Terry Price, the Llanelli, Leicester University, London Welsh and Hendy fullback who featured as a teenager in the 1965 Welsh Triple Crown side, South African fly-half, Naas Botha and Scotland and Lions captain, Gavin Hastings.

Price won eight caps for Wales between 1965 and 1967 and went out to New Zealand as a replacement Lions fullback in 1966 before becoming, in 1967, the first five-figure transfer from union to league when he joined Bradford Northern.

After scoring nearly a thousand points for Northern in the league game, he flew to America in August 1971 to start a brief career as a specialist goal-kicker with Buffalo Bills, the New York National League gridiron team. He was called on to the field simply to take the goal kicks.

Botha had trials with the Dallas Cowboys in 1983 but didn't quite make it, settling instead for a role with the San Antonio Gunslingers in the lesser USFL. Hastings attended American Football's World League training camp in Atlanta, Georgia, in March 1996 where he tried out as a kicker for the Scottish Claymores.

During your story of Welsh fly-halves wearing the No.10 jersey you gave a brief history of the numbering of players and how this evolved to the current accepted format. Could you perhaps give some detail with regard to the numbering of reserve players where today the reserve hooker wears 16 and reserve winger/fullback wears 22. In the past this was the other way round. Why did this change and how has this evolved in the past? Andrew de Klerk, South Africa

Replacements, although allowed through a special dispensation to Australian and New Zealand teams in the first half of the 20th Century (until they became full members of the International Board in 1949), became part-and-parcel of the game at Test level from 1968. Some of the early subs wore numberless jerseys, such as Ian McCrae of Scotland when he came on for Gordon Connell after 14 minutes of the France-Scotland match in Paris in 1969, but it soon became the convention to number from 16 upwards from the backs to the forwards. Originally there was never any law laid down about which positions had to be backed up, though usually a fly-half, scrum-half, prop and hooker were automatically covered. At length it became compulsory to cover the front-row specialist prop and hooker positions.

Given that starting fifteens were numbered upwards from front-row to fullback, the logical step of similarly numbering replacements upwards from 16 to 22 in Tests from front-row to the backs was taken by Scotland, Italy, Ireland, Wales and France at the start of the 2000 Six Nations. England soon fell into line and Romania, Argentina and South Africa did so for their June Tests the same year.

Australia and New Zealand finally followed the convention of numbering replacements from the front-row cover (16 and 17) upwards for the autumn Tests in 2000 (when Wales, curiously, reverted to the old convention of labelling the back reserves from 16 upwards for their games with Samoa and the United States yet numbered from 16 upwards from the front-row reserves for their final match of 2000, against South Africa). Since then Test teams have (almost) universally numbered their replacements along the same lines as their starting fifteens: lowest number upwards corresponding with the front-row through to the backs.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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