December 25 down the years
The birth of the Calcutta Cup ... and business as usual

The indirect birth of the Calcutta Cup after a 20-a-side game (in Calcutta naturally) between a team of Englishmen and a side representing Scotland, Ireland and Wales. A further match a week later led to the formation of the Calcutta Football Club. When that was disbanded in 1878 - because the club bar was closed down - the members withdrew the remaining funds from the bank in silver rupees, had them melted down and made into a cup which was presented to the RFU on the condition is was played for annually.

England flanker James Haskell experienced one of the downsides of going abroad to play when he had to turn out for Japanese side Ricoh Black Rams on Christmas Day. "The game was away so Christmas Eve was spent in a small Japanese hotel and after the match it was a bus journey back. The foreign guys put the seats at the back down and had a bit of a celebration but the Japanese players were probably going to work the next day."

As far as we can find out, this was the last time a first-class match took place on Christmas Day when London Scottish played unofficial Scottish champions West of Scotland in Glasgow with an 11am kick-off aimed at allowing supporters home in time for dinner and the Queen's speech. The Times noted, perhaps unsurprisingly, both sides were "unfortunately not at full strength".

Former England scrum-half turned commentator Nigel Starmer-Smith was born. Starmer-Smith won a Blue at Oxford in 1965 and 1966 but did not win his first international cap until 1969 when he turned in a fine display in an 11-8 win over the Springboks at Twickenham. However, he played only six more Tests for England after somewhat unluckily falling out of favour with the England management. He started working for the BBC whilst still playing for Harlequins and went on to enjoy a hugely successful journalistic career, as the voice of BBC's rugby coverage and also the editor of Rugby World.

Former Scotland international Sean Lineen was born in Auckland, New Zealand. The son of former All Black Terry Lineen, he is regarded as the first 'kilted Kiwi' having qualified for Scotland through his grandfather. The hard-running centre was capped 29 times by Scotland and featured in the famous side that claimed a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1990.

In the days of holiday fixtures, several players turned out for the Barbarians in Leeds on Christmas Eve and then spent Christmas Day travelling to Cardiff for a Boxing Day game at the Arms Park. British Rail ran a limited service on Christmas Day until the early 1960s. London Welsh must have wished they had stayed at home as they opened their Christmas tour with a thumping at Newport, losing by three goals and nine tries to nil (42-0). At least Bath only had to travel to Bristol to lose by a goal and a try to nothing.

Watsonians traditional Christmas Day match - always of interest as at the time they were the only Scottish club to tour Wales - at Swansea drew a crowd of 10,000 despite torrential rain and driving winds. Swansea won 18-0.

The festive fixtures in Llanelli, Neath and Swansea all fell victim to the inclement weather conditions in Wales.

Fans turned out in impressive numbers to watch Llanelli beat a Universities Athletic Union side packed with Welsh students 15-11 at Stradey Park. At Swansea Watsonians went down 6-27.


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