April 22 down the years
A unbecoming centenary celebration

New Zealand squared the series with the World XV, winning 54-26 at Wellington in the second Test of the NZRU's Centenary celebrations. But celebrations had cold water poured on them The match by the sending-off of the French lock, Olivier Roumat, in the first half for kicking Sean Fitzpatrick during a ruck. Fitzpatrick required medical attention. Roumat was the eighth Frenchman to be sent off in international rugby and was handed a four-week ban by the IRB which was increased to six months by the French federation's president, Bernard Lapasset. "That was really the turning point for me," Roumat admitted. "On reflection I am sure it helped me to mature and to eliminate a certain aspect of my game."

Rugby continued its crawl towards professionalism with the IRB ruling that players could be paid for writing books and remain in the game as administrators and coaches. But there was no retrospective lifting of bans meaning the likes of Bill Beaumont, Fran Cotton and Mike Burton remained frozen out. "This decision is quite irrelevant because in five years the game will be professional," Burton said. "I believe that players will shortly be able to endorse products and will earn enough not to have to work. The same situation arose in other sports and something is afoot. People like Fran and myself could coach at club or colts level, but we are still being punished." Burton was right although it was nine years before professionalism became fully accepted.

South Africa's apartheid government announced a relaxation of the strict rules on visiting sides, prime minister John Vorster graciously allowing them to play "mixed and coloured" teams. He emphasised that "strict apartheid" would continue to be "rigorously" enforced at club level. Other changes meant that while the following year's Lions tour could include matches against coloured or black teams, spectators at those games would be limited to the same racial group as was playing.

Nothing new about rugby's blazers causing problems, but Maestag's players refused to play their last game of the season against Pontypridd after the club reneged on a promise to buy their first team new ones. The players insisted the club were going back on their word, the club that they would not afford the cost. In the end, the players backed down … and then lost 14-8.

Guest side Cardiff won the Middlesex Sevens, beating London Scottish 11-6 in the final in front of 30,000 at Twickenham. It was the first time that a Welsh club had claimed the title, and they beat St Mary's Hospital, Met Police and Birkenhead Park on the way to the final.

The County Championship title was shared after Surrey (who had endured a replayed semi-final as well) and Durham slugged out a dour 0-0 draw in a replay in front of 11,000 spectators at Hartlepool. Referee Mike Titcomb attracted most of the blame for the play - as he had done a week earlier at Twickenham - for refusing to allow any rucks to develop. The day ended in confusion as nobody was quite sure what to do next. Durham were happy to share, but Surrey's committee wanted to play on. In the end, Durham's view prevailed.

Harlequins recorded their fifth victory in the eighth year of the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham, thrashing Wasps 23-0. Club side Old Cranleighans reached their third semi-final in six seasons with wins over London Scottish and Blackheath en route.

France were lucky to escape from Brescia with their then slimmest-ever victory over Italy. The Azzurri resisted sternly before succumbing 6-3.

Wasps beat Northampton 30-13 at the Ricoh Stadium, Coventry, in the second of the Heineken Cup semi-finals. The result meant that there was an all-English final for the first time, Leicester having won their tie the previous day.

France beat a Welsh XV 12-0 in front of 25,000 at Stade Colombes in the last of the popular "Victory" internationals.

© Scrum.com

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