Ask John
Lithuania's brotherly love
John Griffiths
May 22, 2013
Italy's Jacques Brunel at the unveiling of his Six Nations squad, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, January 11, 2013
Italy boss Jacques Brunel comes under John Griffiths' microscope © Getty Images
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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 South African Leopards' tour to Italy in 1974, brotherly Test sides, Pat McGrath, England's games against the Barbarians and Italy boss Jacques Brunel.

Do you have any details of the SA Leopards tour of Italy in 1974? AL, South Africa

The Italian Federation issued an invitation to the old SA African Rugby Board (whose representative side were known as the Leopards) on February 19 1974 to undertake a short tour in May of that year.

Dr Luzzi Conti, the president of the Italian Federation, signed off the letter and the African Board, conscious of their commitment to field a side later in the year against the touring British & Irish Lions, happily accepted.

The original tour party selected was:
Rex Giladile, Edmund Mnqatu, Toto Tsotsobe, Marcus Jacobs, Sizakele Jikwana, Barrington Mnyazi, Charles Mgweba, Mbulelo Matomela, Peter Swartz, John Wani, Wallace Xotyeni, Gibson Gawulayo, Norman Mbiko. Jack Dolomba, Thompson Magxala, William Diba, Broadness Cona, Sid Takayi, Benson Maweni, Mbulelo Maqosha, Liston Ntshongwana, Morgan Cushe, Vusumzi Nakani, Patsa Matyeshana, Henry Ketelo (captain).

The party was managed by Nelson Mabunu and the coach was Alfred Dwesi.

The captain Ketelo injured a wrist playing in a club match shortly before the tour party left for Italy. He was unable to travel and Ntshongwana took over the captaincy duties for the tour. Nakani was the only player who had not played for the SA Africans before.

The full tour results were as follows:

May 4 - Lost 4-6 v Lazio (Rome)
May 7 - Lost 10-13 v Brescia (Brescia)
May 9 - Drawn 16-16 v Italy Under-23s (Parabiago)
May 12 - Won 4-0 v Zebre (Milan)
May 15 - Lost 10-25 v ITALY (Brescia)
May 18 - Lost 9-14 v Dogi (Padua)

They played under floodlights against Lazio who included a South African in their side - Nelson Babrow (son of Dr Louis Babrow the Springbok of the 1930s). Toto Tsotsobe scored the only try for the Leopards from a "Gareth Edwards-type break" by scrum-half Gibson Gawulayo. Vusumzi Nakani crossed for a late "try" but it was disallowed.

The Brescia match was also under floodlights in wet, slippery conditions. Patsa Matyeshana scored a try for the Leopards, Norman Mbiko converted and scored a later try and the match was tied at 10-all when Brescia kicked a late penalty to win.

The drawn game with Italy U-23s was very exciting. Tsotsobe and Mbiko scored brilliant solo-tries. Mbiko converted one and landed two penalties to give them a 16-12 lead, but a late try from a lineout saved the Italian U-23s.

Barrington Mnyazi crossed for the only score in the win against Zebre in Milan and their only clear defeat was 25-10 by the Italian national side. Morgan Cushe and Charles Mgweba scored the visitors' tries against the azzurri, Peter Swartz converting one.

The Leopards' scorers in the final match were Tsotsobe (try) and Mbiko (conversion and penalty goal).

In the recent European Nation Cup Division 2A match between Lithuania and Croatia there were three pairs of brothers on the Lithuanian side: Kêstutis and Gediminas Marciauskai, Andrius and Julius (as sub) Sutkai, and Mantaudas and Donatas Vilimavièiai. Has anything similar happened in the history of international rugby? Dovilì Seduikytì, Lithuania

There is one example in Five Nations history that (just) betters this remarkable feat.

At Cardiff in March 1924, the Irish team who defeated Wales 13-10 contained three pairs of brothers in the run-on team. (There were no substitutes in those days).

George (centre) and Harry Stephenson (wing) played in the threequarter line, Tom (wing) and Frank Hewitt (out-half) were also among the back division and Dick and Billy Collopy featured in the Irish pack.

The Hewitt boys were on debut and each scored a try. Frank, who was only 17 years and 157 days old on that occasion, remains the youngest player ever capped for Ireland.

Do you have any details of former Ireland wing P J McGrath's rugby career while he was in New Zealand? Peter Murray, Ireland

Pat McGrath was a medical student at University College, Cork who won ten caps for Ireland between 1965 and 1967. His first nine Tests were as a wing but for his last game, against Australia in an 11-5 win in Sydney in 1967, he appeared in the centre.

Dr McGrath travelled extensively after graduating and had a spell with the Marist Old Boys Club in Hamilton, New Zealand, turning out ten times for Waikato in 1969. He scored five first-class tries including a hat-trick against Taranaki in his last appearance for the province.

He went to Australia the following season and later travelled to Canada and the United States where he became an orthopaedic specialist in New York.

Bristol's Mark Regan breaks past the Toulon defence, Bristol v Toulon, European Challenge Cup,  Memorial Stadium, Bristol, England, October 17, 2008
Mark 'Ronnie' Regan is no stranger to England's matches against the Barbarians © Getty Images

Who has played most often in the England XV-Barbarians fixture? Alan Kirby, England

All told, Mark Regan made seven appearances in a series which dates from 1990, although it has only become a regular fixture as the May prelude to England's overseas summer tour since 2001. England have never awarded caps for this match.

Regan played for the England XV in the matches of 2001-02-03-04 and turned out for the Barbarians in 2005, 2006 and 2008. No match was staged in 2007 (Rugby World Cup year).

France's Thomas Castaignède (2002-03-04-05-06) and New Zealand's Mark Robinson (in the same years) appeared most often for the Barbarians in this fixture.

Jamie Noon, Charlie Hodgson, Mathew Tait, James Simpson-Daniel, Hugh Vyvyan and Dave Walder, like Regan, made four appearances for England in the series.

What are the brief details of Italian coach Jacques Brunel's playing and coaching career? Mike Hamilton, Ireland

Jacques Brunel was born at Courrensan (Gers) on January 14, 1954 and began playing with the juniors at Auch in 1967. He graduated to the club's senior side in the 1970s, playing full-back at a time when his club colleague, Jacques Fouroux, was France's captain. He spent a season with Grenoble in 1979-80 and played for Carcassonne in 1980-81 before returning to Auch.

After retiring from playing in 1981 he immediately moved into coaching at the club and was there from 1988 to 1995. He then spent four seasons with Colomiers on the Toulouse outskirts before moving to Pau. He took Colomiers to the European Challenge title in 1998 and repeated the success with Pau two years later.

In 2001, he joined the French coaching set-up under Bernard Laporte and was in charge of the forwards until the end of France's unsuccessful Rugby World Cup campaign in 2007. During his tenure France won the Grand Slam in 2004 and carried off the Six Nations titles in both 2006 and 2007.

He had four seasons with Perpignan (2007-2011), winning the French Top 14 title in 2009 before succeeding Nick Mallett as Italy's head coach after the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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