Ask John
Ollie Waldron, returning Lions and penalty shoot-outs
John Griffiths
May 11, 2009

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 his latest lesson for us all, John takes a look at Ireland's Ollie Waldron, returning Lions internationals and the now infamous penalty shootout following Cardiff Blues recent loss to Leicester Tigers.

Do you have any info on an international called Ollie Waldron? Pat O Brien, Ireland

Ollie Waldron was a UC Cork, Oxford University and London Irish forward who won three caps for Ireland as a lock and prop between 1966 and 1968. He won Blues for Oxford as a postgraduate in 1965 and 1967, but is best remembered for his involvement on the receiving end of a notorious biting incident.

In October 1966 he was studying nuclear physics at Merton College when he was selected to prop for Oxford University against the Fifth Wallabies. It was only the third match of the visitors' tour and they had already lost once when they turned out at Iffley Road for the mid-week match against the Dark Blues.

The students, inspired by their South African captain Tom Bedford, began confidently and opened a nine-point lead in the first twelve minutes. Australia had to wait until the second half before scoring. Jim Lenehan, their captain for the day, made a well-timed entry into the threequarter line to create a try for scrum-half John Hipwell which Lenehan, from a wide angle, converted. The Aussie captain made another incursion five minutes later to send Stewart Boyce over in the corner, and then put his side ahead after 15 minutes with a sweetly-struck dropped goal from half-way.

Thereafter, at 11-9, the match was as tight as the score suggests. Five minutes from the end came the incident that sent this game into the history books. From a scrum, Ollie Waldron emerged with a torn ear. He promptly left the field and was taken to hospital where he lost count of the number of stitches inserted in his ear-lobe. The injury prevented him from taking part in the Varsity Match in December.

It later emerged that Ross Cullen, the Wallaby hooker, had experienced such a torrid time in the front-row that he had taken the law into his own hands and taken a nip at an opponent. Waldron later stated that Cullen had threatened to bite him, whereupon he felt the Australian's teeth sink into his left ear-lobe.

After the match neither the referee Peter Brook nor Bill McLaughlin, the Wallabies' manager, would comment on the incident. McLaughlin, who at the outset of the tour had promised to deal briskly with any foul play perpetrated by his team, was true to his word. The day after the match, in an unprecedented statement, he announced that Ross Cullen would return at once to Australia. Cullen never played again and disappeared from the rugby scene.

Waldron's last cap for Ireland was in 1968 against Australia. He later became deputy chairman and chief executive officer for Dragon Oil, an independent oil development and production company.

Simon Shaw is touring South Africa for a second time with the Lions. Have any other players managed this feat of touring the same country twice with the Lions? Chris George, England

When the Rugby World Cup was introduced at four-yearly intervals in 1987 it was decided that the rotation of Lions tours to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa should fall in between World Cup events, fixing the period between return visits at twelve years. Before the World Cup era the intervals between visits to the same country were irregular.

The list of players who have made repeat Lions tours of the same country is as follows:

G L Brown New Zealand 1971 & 1977
F E Cotton South Africa 1974 & 1980
G O Edwards South Africa 1968 & 1974
C M H Gibson South Africa 1968 & 1974
C M H Gibson Australia & NZ 1966 & 1971 & 1977 (NZ only)
J Hammond South Africa 1891 & 1896
P F Hancock South Africa 1891 & 1896
A F Harding Australia & NZ 1904 & 1908
A R Irvine South Africa 1974 & 1980
R E G Jeeps South Africa 1955 & 1962
T J Kiernan South Africa 1962 & 1968
F A L Laidlaw Australia & NZ 1966 & 1971
W J McBride South Africa 1962 & 1968 & 1974
W J McBride Australia & NZ 1966 & 1971
P F McEvedy Australia & NZ 1904 & 1908
R J McLoughlin Australia & NZ 1966 & 1971
B V Meredith South Africa 1955 & 1962
S Millar South Africa 1962 & 1968
N A A Murphy Australia & NZ 1959 & 1966
G Price New Zealand 1977 & 1983
D L Quinnell New Zealand 1971 & 1977
A R Smith South Africa 1955 & 1962
J Squire New Zealand 1977 & 1983
B I Swannell Australia 1899 & 1904
M C Thomas Australia & NZ 1950 & 1959
W D Thomas Australia & NZ 1966 & 1971
P J Winterbottom New Zealand 1983 & 1993
D Young Australia 1989 & 2001

Only Willie-John McBride (touring South Africa with the 1962, 1968 and triumphant 1974 party) and Mike Gibson (to NZ in 1966, 1971 and 1977) made three Lions visits of the same country as players, a record that is unlikely to be matched. Simon Shaw will equal McBride's span of twelve years between making a first and last return Lions tour.

Is there a precedent in first-class rugby for the penalty shoot-out that decided the recent Heineken Cup semi-final between Cardiff Blues and Leicester Tigers? Anon

Drawn games in rugby are considerably rarer than in soccer. In the ten seasons since the Six Nations began, for instance, there have been only two draws in 150 matches.

Although extra time has been played in Rugby World Cup finals and domestic competitions, the only previous major Cup match decided on penalties was the 1984 French Championship final between Béziers and Agen. The match finished all-square at 12-all after eighty minutes and the sides were still deadlocked, at 21-all, after extra time. Béziers then won the penalty shoot-out 3-1 to win their tenth French Championship title in 13 years.

Have any players won both Super 12/14 and Heineken Cup honours? Anon

The Leicester Tigers wing, Scott Hamilton, played for the Crusaders in their 20-12 win against the Waratahs in the Super 14 final last year and was in their winning sides in 2006 and 2005, when he scored one of their tries. He is likely to feature in the Tigers' squad for the Heineken Cup final against Leinster at Murrayfield later this month.

Only two players have gained winners' medals in both of these competitions to date:

Rod Kafer for Leicester in 2002 and the Brumbies in 2001
Doug Howlett for Munster in 2008 and the Blues in 2003

When did the Lions first travel overseas by air? Anon

The first party to fly overseas was the 1955 Lions to South Africa. They left London Airport on 10 June 1955, their flight having been delayed more than five hours. They had to wait for work to be completed on their plane and were further held up because the pilot reported engine trouble, the team and officials returning to the airport lounge.

The plane stopped off in Khartoum the next morning and the side eventually arrived at Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg shortly before midnight. Vivian Jenkins, who covered the tour for the Sunday Times and had visited South Africa as vice-captain of the 1938 Lions, later felt that a compromise between sea and air might have been considered. "Out by sea, back by air probably provides the best solution," he wrote in his book covering the 1955 tour. It was never considered as an alternative for later visits.

The last British/Irish party to sail overseas was the 1950 side to New Zealand and Australia. They sailed from Liverpool on Saturday 1 April on board the S. S. Ceramic and arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday 2 May.

When did Diego Ormaechea make his senior Test debut for Uruguay? Cris Freddi, England.

The Uruguayan forward won his first cap in October 1979 during the South American Championships. He retired twenty years later shortly after leading his country in the 1999 Rugby World Cup finals. The only international player who has enjoyed a longer Test career is Gheorghe Parcalabescu of Romania. He made his debut against Italy in April 1940 and played his last match (against Czechoslovakia) in May 1960. His career span was a month longer than Ormaechea's.


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