Ask John
Lions representation, postponements, the USSR in New Zealand and sin-bin time
John Griffiths
February 27, 2012

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 answers questions on Lions representation, Championship postponements, transferred Test matches, the USSR in New Zealand in 1991 and sin-bin timing.

Has there ever been a Lions tour selection where each of the four Home Unions has been equally represented? Peter Howells, Wales

For most of the 20th Century it was the norm for the Lions tour parties to comprise thirty players. It would therefore have been impossible for each of the four Home Unions to provide equal representation.

The closest to an even distribution occurred in 1962 when the tourists visited South Africa. On that tour the original party comprised nine Welshmen, eight Englishmen, seven Irishmen and six Scots, as follows:

Wales: Dewi Bebb, Ken Jones, Tony O'Connor, Bryn Meredith, Haydn Morgan, Alun Pask, David Nash, Kingsley Jones and Keith Rowlands

England: John Willcox, John Dee, Mike Weston, Richard Sharp, Dickie Jeeps, Budge Rogers, Peter Wright and Stan Hodgson

Ireland: Tom Kiernan, Ray Hunter, David Hewitt, Niall Brophy, Bill Mulcahy, Syd Millar and Willie-John McBride

Scotland: Arthur Smith (the tour captain), Ronnie Cowan, Gordon Waddell, Mike Campbell-Lamerton, John Douglas and David Rollo

Further to your recent piece on the France-Ireland postponement, could you list all of the matches in the Five/Six Nations Championship that have been postponed or even cancelled? Graham, England

International Championship cancellations & postponements since 1910 (when France played all four of the Home Unions for the first time):

1914 - Scotland v France (cancelled owing to a riot in Paris at the 1913 match)
1915-1919 - All matches cancelled owing to WW One
1932-1939 - Matches cancelled with France owing to their expulsion from the Championship
1940-1946 - All matches cancelled owing to WW Two
1972 - Ireland v Scotland; Ireland v Wales (cancelled owing to the political troubles)

1933 - Ireland v Scotland (postponed to April: snow)
1937 - Ireland v Wales (postponed to April: snow)
1947 - England v France; Wales v Ireland (postponed: Big Freeze winter)
1952 - England v Ireland (postponed owing to Death of HM King George VI. Later played end-March when it took place in a blizzard in front of a tiny attendance)
1954 - Wales v Scotland (postponed to April: frost)
1955 - Wales v England (postponed by one week in mid-January: snow)
1956 - France v England (postponed to April: frost)
1962 - Ireland v Wales (postponed to November: smallpox epidemic in S Wales)
1982 - Ireland v Wales (postponed by one week in mid-January: snow)
1985 - France v Wales, Ireland v England; Wales v England (postponed to late March/April: snow and frost)
1987 - England v Scotland; Wales v Ireland (postponed from Jan to early April: hazardous icy travel conditions)
2001 - Ireland v England; Wales v Ireland; Scotland v Ireland (postponed to Sep/Oct: foot-and-mouth)
2012 - France v Ireland (postponed: frosty pitch)

Has poor weather ever caused a major Test match to be transferred from one ground to another at late notice? Matthew Richards, Wales

The logistical problems of re-seating a capacity Test crowd at late notice these days would almost certainly prevent such a transfer. Even so, it has happened three times in the past.

In January 1887 the Wales v England fixture was transferred from the main Stradey Park pitch at Llanelli to the adjacent cricket ground because of frost. A large crowd turned up to see Wales hold England to a draw for the first time, England having won all the previous encounters.

When New Zealand played Australia in Dunedin in September 1905, torrential rain so flooded the Carisbrook Caledonian Ground that a postponement was considered.

The Aussies, however, were keen to fulfil the fixture so, at late notice, it was transferred to Tahuna Park which, according to one newspaper report, "was in remarkably good order." There, the sandy surface had absorbed the torrential rains of the previous 36 hours and the New Zealanders, fielding 13 new caps, won 14-3.

It was effectively the home side's third fifteen. Three weeks earlier their leading players had set sail for their first rugby tour to Europe.

The only Five Nations match transferred at the eleventh hour was in Paris in 1924. The Seine had flooded the Stade Colombes pitch making it unplayable and so France entertained Scotland at the Stade Pershing grounds across the city in Vincennes. France won 12-10 scoring four unconverted tries.

Statsguru has an undetailed entry for a match between "Russia" and a New Zealand XV, taking place in Hamilton on 16 June 1991. (As I was living in Hamilton at the time, and we didn't get many national sides playing there, I'm surprised that I do not recall this.) Google and Wikipedia reveal few details, other than that the "Russian" team was probably a USSR side (one of the last?) and a match was also played against Canterbury. Are you able to find any more details of this tour? Paul, New Zealand

In 1991, in preparation for the second Rugby World Cup in Britain, France and Ireland, New Zealand hosted short tours by Western Samoa, Fiji, Romania and the USSR. There were no matches of Test status played by New Zealand against the tourists, but a side designated "A New Zealand XV" met both the Romanian and Soviet sides.

The USSR tour party comprised 26 players and was led from the front-row by Sergei Molchenov. They won four and lost four of the eight matches played:

May 25: W 25-24 v Nelson Bays (Nelson)
May 29: W 23-16 v Marlborough (Blenheim)
June 1: L 15-73 v Canterbury (Christchurch)
June 5: W 33-10 v Mid Canterbury (Ashburton)
June 8: L 11-37 v Otago (Dunedin)
June 12: L 16-39 v Taranaki (New Plymouth)
June 16: L 6-56 v NEW ZEALAND XV (Hamilton)
June 18: W 22-15 v King Country (Te Kuiti)

The tours gave the New Zealand selectors a chance to gauge the form of players likely to be on the periphery of selection for the World Cup. The teams in the representative match you refer to were as follows:

June 16, 1991 at Rugby Park, Hamilton
New Zealand XV 56 (8G 2T) - USSR 6 (1PG 1DG)
New Zealand XV: E J Crossan; E Clarke, W K Maunsell, T D L Tagaloa; A F McCormick, J P Preston; J A Hewett; O M Brown, N J Hewitt, M R Allen, R M Brooke, D W Mayhew, M P Carter, W T Shelford (captain), W R Gordon

Tries: McCormick (2), Crossan (2), Maunsell (2), Tagaloa (2), Shelford, Carter
Conversions: Crossan (8)

USSR : V Voropaev; A Zakarliuk, I Kuperman, A Kovalenko, I Mironov; S Boldakov, A Bychkov; E Kabylkin, S Molchenov (captain), R Bikbov, S Sergeev, E Ganiakhin, V Negodin, A Ogryzkov, A Tikhonov Replacements used: Y Nikolaev, V Zykov

Penalty Goal: Boldakov
Dropped Goal: Boldakov

Referee: Mr D J Bishop

In September, the USSR were guests of the RFU and played the Combined London Old Boys at Croxley Green (OMTs' ground) before meeting an England XV in a World Cup warm-up game at Twickenham where they lost 53-0 to a full-strength side led by Will Carling.

Their last representative matches as a united Soviet side were during the 1991-92 season. A team labelled "CIS" fulfilled their remaining FIRA Championship fixtures against Italy, Spain, Romania and France A.

Russia has competed as a separate entity at international level since 1992.

Could you further explain the 10 minutes spent by a player in the sin bin? As you stated recently, the player sits for 10 minutes of playing time. Does the time occurring after the 40 minute mark count as playing time? For example, let's say a player is yellow carded at the 33:00 minute mark. At the end of the first half a team maintains possession for an extended period and play goes on 4 minutes past when 40:00 rolls up. Does the card-ed player return at the beginning of the second half or must he wait until the 43:00 mark? Caleb A Borchers, United States

Yes, the time that the game is in play after the 40-minute mark is reached on the match clock does count on the sin-bin clock. So in your example you are perfectly correct in saying that the player should return for the second-half kick-off.

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