Ask John
Unofficial world champions, Blackrock College Lions and the world's most capped lock
John Griffiths
January 31, 2011
South African lock Victor Matfield passes, Wales v South Africa, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, June 5, 2010
Springboks veteran Victor Matfield is the all-time most-capped lock © Getty Images

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 unofficial world champions, Blackrock College Lions, the world's most capped lock, Heineken Cup pool stage records and windy days in New Zealand!

I know that there is a website that tracks the unofficial football world champion by using the idea of "winner stays on" and I was wondering if doing the same thing for international rugby union would throw up any surprises? Would there have been any world champions outside of the obvious major test nations for example? Also, would it make a significant difference if British Lions test matches were included? (ie if the Lions won their final test on tour, the title wasn't competed for until the 1st test of the following tour series.) Tim Skepper, England

This system uses the boxing concept that the winner of any title match is the world championship-holder and in the last column the list was given up to 1938, when the Lions took the title from South Africa.

Continuing the system to rugby internationals up to 1984, when the title goes outside the Five Nations, Lions and Tri-Nations dominance for the first time, provides the following outcomes (with drawn matches resulting in the title being retained by the holder):

Year - Title Holder
1938 - British/Irish Lions (one successful defence up to 1950)
1950 - New Zealand (five successful defences up to 1952)
1952 - Australia (no successful defence)
1952 - New Zealand (no successful defence)
1953 - Wales (no successful defence)
1954 - England (no successful defence)
1954 - New Zealand (one successful defence)
1954 - France (no successful defence)
1954 - Wales (two successful defences)
1955 - Scotland (one successful defence)
1955 - England (no successful defence)
1956 - Wales (one successful defence)
1956 - Ireland (one successful defence)
1957 - England (seven successful defences)
1959 - Wales (no successful defence)
1959 - Scotland (no successful defence)
1959 - Ireland (no successful defence)
1959 - Wales (no successful defence)
1959 - France ((no successful defence)
1959 - Ireland (no successful defence)
1960 - England (two successful defences)
1961 - South Africa (ten successful defences)
1963 - Australia (one successful defence)
1963 - South Africa (one successful defence)
1964 - France (four successful defences)
1965 - England (one successful defence)
1966 - Wales (one successful defence)
1966 - Ireland (one successful defence)
1967 - England (no successful defence)
1967 - France (three successful defences)
1967 - South Africa (one successful defence)
1967 - France (one successful defence)
1967 - New Zealand (eight successful defences)
1970 - South Africa (no successful defence)
1970 - New Zealand (no successful defence)
1970 - South Africa (six successful defences)
1972 - England (no successful defence)
1973 - New Zealand (one successful defence)
1973 - France (no successful defence)
1973 - England (three successful defences)
1974 - Scotland (no successful defence)
1974 - Ireland (no successful defence)
1974 - New Zealand (two successful defences)
1976 - South Africa (no successful defence)
1976 - New Zealand (no successful defence)
1976 - South Africa (six successful defences)
1980 - British/Irish Lions (no successful defence)
1983 - New Zealand (five successful defences)
1983 - England (no successful defence)
1984 - Scotland (two successful defences)
1984 - Romania

To be concluded next time

I noticed in your last set of questions and answers you stated that Brian O'Driscoll was the last Lion to have come from Blackrock College. Surely Luke Fitzgerald would be the current holder of that title? Owen Brazil, Ireland

Deliberate mistake - well spotted ….! Yes, you're right of course, and several others were quick to point out the slip. O'Driscoll was the eighth Blackrock College Lion and Luke Fitzgerald the ninth.

The following Blackrock boys went on to win Lions honours:
Larry Bulger - 1896
Paul Murray - 1930
Niall Brophy - 1959 & 1962
Fergus Slattery - 1971 & 1974
Hugo MacNeill - 1983
Brendan Mullin - 1989
Shane Byrne - 2005
Brian O'Driscoll - 2001, 2005 and 2009
Luke Fitzgerald - 2009

The Blackrock College RFC senior club has produced several more Lions but not all were former pupils of the school

Who has the most Test caps in the lock position? John Stephens, Wales

Victor Matfield, South Africa's most-capped player, has won all 105 of his Test caps in the middle of the second-row.

Fabien Pelous won 118 caps for France but 18 of his starts were as a No.8.

During the recent final round of Heineken Cup pool matches commentary teams referred to the fact that no side with a 100% record in the pool stages had ever gone on to win the Cup. Could you list the sides that have achieved clean sweeps of their pool (under the current system) and show the extent of their progress in the knockout stages? Graham, England

Both Northampton and Toulouse were contenders for 100% records in this season's pool stages, but only Northampton maintained their record after the final matches. The system of six pool matches was introduced in the 1997-98 season, when there were five pools. There were only four pools in 1998-99 when Cardiff, Swansea and the English clubs did not enter The six-pool system came into force from 1999-2000

The following clubs have emerged with six wins from six games in the preliminaries:
1998 - Wasps (who lost to Brive in the quarter-finals)
2002 - Bath (who lost to Llanelli in the quarter-finals)
2003 - Leinster (who lost to Perpignan in the semi-finals)
2005 - Leinster (who lost to Leicester in the quarter-finals)
2007 - Llanelli (who lost to Leicester in the semi-fianls)
2007 - Biarritz (who lost to Northampton in the quarter-finals)
2009 - Cardiff (who lost on a penalty shoot-out to Leicester in the semi-finals)

In the early years Toulouse won both their pool matches before going on to lift the inaugural Heineken Cup (1996). Leinster also won both their pool games that season but were knocked out by Cardiff in the semi-finals. Brive won all four of their pool matches before winning the competition in 1997 (beating Leicester, who had also won all four of their pool matches, in the Final).

Relating to the recent inquiry about posts being knocked down by a kicked ball, I recall being on the terraces in the late '90s at Carisbrook in Dunedin for an Otago match when shortly before kick-off, the strong wind snapped off one of the wildly swaying uprights (at the Neville Street end) just above the cross bar. The ground staff simply lashed the upright back into place, making that upright somewhat shorter than its mate. Paul Johns, New Zealand

Arguably some of the windiest matches in rugby history have involved New Zealand.

Their first Test of the 1913 home series against Australia was played at Athletic Park on a very wet and windy Wellington day. The referee took pity on the sides and broke the game into four quarters - the only time this appears to have happened in a Test. NZ won 30-5.

Forty-eight years later, France experienced similar conditions at Athletic Park on their first tour of New Zealand. On the morning of their second test of the 1961 series, gusts of 80 mph were recorded and the SS Canberra, on her maiden voyage, was prevented from berthing in Wellington harbour. New Zealand won the Test 5-3, Don Clarke converting a try by Kel Tremain. Jean Dupuy scored France's try.

The 1989 All Blacks in Wales experienced one of west Wales's worst days when they beat Llanelli 11-0 at Stradey Park. It was so windy that the authorities closed the temporary grandstand erected along the touchline adjacent to the old cricket pitch on safety grounds. Spectators heading away from the ground later in the day were advised on which routes to take back to the town centre to avoid falling masonry.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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