Ask John
The most experienced Test XV and internationals from Rugby, Eton and Harrow
John Griffiths
August 22, 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 Griffiths looks at the most experienced Test XV, international players to have gone to Eton, Harrow and Rugby schools and late enforced changes.

I'm trying to find out what the most capped starting team is of all time. In other words, if all the player's caps / appearances are added, which run-on team (and against whom) had the highest total in history. I know South Africa will have 810 caps in the starting team to play Australia this weekend (13.08.2011), but how far off is that to the most ever I'm wondering? Thomas, South Africa

Australia held the previous record: 798 caps among the side that started their pool match against Japan at Lyon in the 2007 World Cup: Chris Latham 73; Adam Ashley-Cooper 8, Stirling Mortlock 60, Matt Giteau 47, Lote Tuqiri 53; Stephen Larkham 101, George Gregan 134; Matt Dunning 32, Stephen Moore 15, Al Baxter 47, Nathan Sharpe 60, Dan Vickerman 48, Rocky Elsom 28, George Smith 79 and Wycliffe Palu 13.

Ireland had 795 caps in the fifteen that took the field for their pool match in the same World Cup against Georgia in Bordeaux: Girvan Dempsey 76; Shane Horgan 55, Brian O'Driscoll 76, Gordon D'Arcy 33, Denis Hickie 60; Ronan O'Gara 74, Peter Stringer 78; Marcus Horan 48, Rory Best 15, John Hayes 76, Donnacha O'Callaghan 37, Paul O'Connell 46, Simon Easterby 59, David Wallace 38 and Denis Leamy 24.

The previous cap record for a South African Test starting fifteen was 750 against Australia at the start of the 2010 Tri-Nations game in Bloemfontein.

Thanks for the recent info regarding Test caps. I assume that Rhodesia did not award caps in 1949 either? Paul Johns, New Zealand

Rugby was first played in Rhodesia in 1890 by members of the Pioneer Column and the game rapidly spread. In 1895 the Rhodesia Rugby Football Union was formed and their first Currie Cup teams were fielded in the 1898 tournament that was staged in Cape Town.

The Union became affiliated to the South African Rugby Board and Rhodesian players were considered eligible for selection for the Springboks. In 1960 Des van Jaarsveldt became the only Rhodesian to captain South Africa, leading the Springboks to an 18-10 victory in their one-off Test against Scotland.

Their last Currie Cup under the Rhodesia name was in 1979 during which season their competitive name changed to Zimbawe-Rhodesia, but Independence thereafter ended their Currie Cup connection. Until 1981, when Zimbabwe made its bow as a Test-playing rugby nation, Rhodesian players (whose main competitive activity was in the Currie Cup) were always referred to as "representative players" and never given the senior cap status accorded to South Africa or in other rugby-playing nations. There was never any claim that their games against overseas tour sides should be regarded as Tests, although their matches against the Lions, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Italy were referred to as "internationals". These games have never been regarded as Tests by their opponents.

Rhodesia played nearly three-dozen internationals between 1910 and 1981, winning four. Their most famous victory was 10-8 against Fred Allen's 1949 All Blacks at Hartsfield, Bulawayo, when the home side comprised:

Joe Pretorius; Koos Brink, Ryk van Schoor, Waldemar Brune, Bennie Kidd; Eddie Karg, Billy Viljoen; John Morkel (captain), Peter Greaves, Blister Painting, Salty du Rand, Arthur Birkin, Kleintjie Prinsloo, Junior Brownlee and Claude Jones.

Brink and Jones scored the tries; Brink and Karg converting. Three days later Rhodesia drew 3-3 with the All Blacks in Salisbury. They also had an 8-all draw against the Wallabies four years later. Van Schoor and Du Rand were prominent members of the 1951-52 Springbok Test side in Britain, Ireland and France. Other pre-1981 Springboks capped from Rhodesia were Ronnie Hill, Andy MacDonald, Ian Robertson, Ray Mordt and David Smith.

During the years of isolation, the Springboks undertook a few 'internal tours' playing against local sides around the country. Were any caps or special status awarded for these games? Aaron Chaim David, England

Until 1992 only the South African Rugby Board (as affiliated members of the IRB) could award Springbok colours or Test status for rugby.

In 1985 they named a team of "Springboks" for a short internal tour after their projected Tests against an incoming team from New Zealand were cancelled.

They did not recognise the matches as carrying full Springbok status and official colours were not awarded to the players who took part in the matches.

As a result the following names are omitted from the official list of South African rugby representatives: Dolly Ntaka, Wilf Cupido, Calla Scholtz, Wessel Lightfoot and the former Ireland and British/Irish Lions scrum-half John Robbie.

Which international Test players have attended Rugby, Eton and Harrow? John Howe, Ireland

In terms of numbers Rugby lead the way and have done since the first international match staged in 1871. There were ten Old Rugbeians in the first England side that faced Scotland - more than Eton and Harrow combined have contributed to England fifteens in the 140 years since.

By the mid-1920s Rugby had produced nearly fifty England rugby internationals, including four of the national side's most distinguished captains: Fred Stokes (captain for the first international in 1871); Vincent Cartwright (skipper against the Original All Blacks of 1905); Adrian Stoop (captain in 1910 when Twickenham opened and England won the Championship for the first time since 1892); and Ronnie Poulton (later Poulton-Palmer) who led the 1914 side to back-to-back Grand Slams.

Micky Steele-Bodger is probably the best-known post-war England international produced by Rugby School. He was a flanker in the early post-war England sides. The school has also produced Scottish, Welsh, Irish and even South African Test players.

Of the great 19th century Public Schools Marlborough College and Cheltenham College were the next most prolific in providing England with international players in the first fifty years of Test rugby. Uppingham, Bedford School, Tonbridge, Clifton College, Haileybury and Wellington College also supplied England with many international rugby players.

Eton and Harrow have produced more British Prime-Ministers than Test rugby players. The game at Harrow was not formally established until 1927. Austin Podmore, a knowledgeable correspondent on schools rugby, told readers of The Rugby Football Annual in 1928: "[My] article should not close without mention of an important event - Harrow's second adoption of the Rugby game, this time on the right lines."

Even so, Harrovian A N ("Monkey") Hornby, who captained England at both rugby and cricket, was capped in the early days of international rugby and two other alumni, James Gowans (Scotland) and Willoughby Hamilton (Ireland), were honoured before 1900. Peter Ryan (England) and Gurth Hoyer-Millar (Scotland) were capped in the 1950s and more recently Gareth Rees (Canada) and Damian Hopley (England) played World Cup rugby.

Eton College took up rugby in 1911 and before the Great War the school was playing fixtures with Wellington and Radley. Not all school connections of international rugby players are known, but to date the only Etonian who appears to have been capped for England is I J (later Sir James) Pitman who played on the left-wing against Scotland at Twickenham in 1922.

Stephen Jones pulled out of the recent England-Wales match at Twickenham shortly before kick-off. Has there been a later team change before a Test? Paul Stephenson, England

The latest change to a Test line-up occurred before the France-Scotland Five Nations opener in January 1969. Jean Salut, the blond French flanker, was injured running out on to the Stade Colombes pitch in Paris. He had earlier twisted his ankle in the changing room and was given a pain-killing injection. Then, as he ran out, he went over on the ankle on the steps leading up from the tunnel to the pitch and fell heavily.

The French completely reorganised their scrum before the kick-off. Salut was replaced by a prop (Jean Iracabal) who specialised on the loose-head. The selected loose-head (Jean-Michel Esponda) crossed the scrum to tight-head, tight-head prop (Michel Lasserre) went into the second-row and Benoit Dauga moved back to Number Eight, displacing Walter Spanghero who moved to take up Salut's position on the side of the scrum.

So there were five French pack changes between leaving the dressing room and lining up for the anthems. As the rugby correspondent of the Observer, Clem Thomas, told his readers next day: "Only the French would make a change of such complexity."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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