Ask John
Old-style numbering, decorated All Blacks and Jarrett's debut
John Griffiths
April 23, 2012
Tana Umaga bursts through the tackle of opposite number Jamie Noon, England v New Zealand, Autumn International, Twickenham, November 19 2005.
Tana Umaga is the only New Zealand player to have registered at least 50 Test caps, 100 Super Rugby appearances and 100 provincial appearances © 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 old-style numbering, decorated All Blacks, England v Argentina in 1995, Keith Jarrett's debut and Howard Davies' international jerseys.

Watching a programme about Cliff Morgan some time ago, I was surprised to see him wearing a No.6 on his shirt! I then noticed that the fullback was No.1 and prop No.15! When was the current numbering system adopted? Angela Briggs, Wales

Throughout Cliff Morgan's Test career (1951-58) the Welsh team was numbered from back to front as follows:

Fullback 1; Right-wing 2, Right-centre 3, Left-centre 4, Left-wing 5; Outside-half 6, Scrum-half 7; Prop 8, Hooker 9, Prop 10, Second-rows 11&12, Blind-side wing forward 13, Back-row lock (now known as the No 8) 14, Open-side wing-forward 15.

Cliff was an outside-half, of course, so always wore the No.6 shirt when playing for Wales.

By the mid-fifties the southern hemisphere system of packing 3-4-1 in scrums was becoming the norm in Britain, Ireland and France and the names given to positions were beginning to change.

In the old 3-2-3 scrum system, the man "locking" the scrum had been the middle player of the back-row - hence the expression back-row lock used above. In the mechanics of the 3-4-1 system, the locking of the scrum became the responsibilities of the two second-row middle men, with the single player at the back evolving into the position called "eighth-man" (in South Africa) or No.8 (in New Zealand).

The Scots were the last to abandon the 3-2-3 scrum for 3-4-1 in the late 1950s, so by 1960 the No.8 position had become universally adopted. It was to ensure that the No.8 actually wore the No.8 jersey that British sides changed their numbering systems.

England, Scotland and Wales began numbering from the front-row of the scrum to the back in the 1960-61 season and the system has been used in Britain ever since, though it was not until 1967 that the International Board actually laid down how international teams should be numbered, stipulating that threequarters and rows in the scrum should be numbered from left (11 for left-wing; 1 for left - or loose-head - prop) to right (14 for right-wing; 3 for right - or tight-head - prop).

The first Welsh outside-half to wear No.10 on his back in a Test was Bridgend's Ken Richards against South Africa at Cardiff in December 1960.

How many All Blacks have achieved 50 Test, 100 Super, and 100 Provincial caps? Caleb Borchers, United States

Colin Meads was the first New Zealander to reach 50 Test caps (in 1970) and there are now 41 All Blacks with 50 or more Tests to their name. Meads made 139 provincial appearances for King Country but had passed from the playing scene long before Super Rugby began.

Many subsequent All Black members of the fifty-club have reached 100 Super caps (the most recent being Dan Carter for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes on Saturday), but only one player can claim a record of 50 Test caps, 100 Super caps and 100 provincial caps.

Tana Umaga achieved the feat in 2007. He won his 50th New Zealand Test cap in 2003, reached 100 Super games for the Hurricanes in 2005 and notched up his century of provincial appearances for Wellington in 2007.

Jimmy Cowan, who is Gloucester-bound later this year, could be the next to reach the triple-landmark. He already has 51 Test caps for the All Blacks and reached 100 Super caps for the Highlanders earlier this season. He is closing in on 100 appearances for Southland. Andrew Mehrtens, 70 Tests and more than a century of provincial appearances for Canterbury, fell short on Super 12 appearances. He played 87 times for the Crusaders before giving way to Daniel Carter.

In the 1995 World Cup pool match in Durban between Argentina and England the match programme gave the Pumas' backline as follows: Jurado; Teran Nougues, Garcia, Salvat, Cuesta Silva; Arbizu, Crexell. Scrum gives the actual match line-up as: Jurado; Teran Nougues, Cuesta Silva, Salvat, Albanese; Arbizu, Crexell. Can you resolve the discrepancy please? Colin Smith, England

Albanese definitely played in the RWC pool match against England on May 27, 1995.

The programme listing you quote is the team that was originally named for Argentina. But on the day before the game, Garcia had to withdraw from his position as centre with a suspected knee cartilage strain. As a result, Cuesta Silva was switched from left-wing to centre and Albanese entered the side wearing the No.11 shirt.

The ESPNscrum version of the match line-up is accurate.

Keith Jarrett's famous debut against England in 1967 was on a Spring-like day I recall, yet before the 1970s the Wales-England game was always in January. Yet in your recent lists of Five Nations postponements there was no reference to the 1967 game being disrupted by the weather. Stephen Hall, England

The match took place on April 15, 1967, in perfect conditions, as you recall. The game had not been rearranged.

Up to 1973, the Five Nations was usually played to a fixed rota on nine or ten Saturdays, with France and Scotland invariably opening the season on the second Saturday in January and Wales and England meeting the next weekend. The only regular double-header weekend used to be in late February when England usually met France on the same Saturday that Scotland played Ireland.

Several Wales-England matches at Cardiff in the late 1950s and early 1960s were wrecked by the weather - rain and mud spoiling the 1955, 1959, 1961 and 1965 matches and the frost and cold of an Arctic winter rendering the playing surface difficult for the 1963 match. These conditions led to a clamour from English and Welsh supporters for a ten-year churn or rotation of fixtures to ensure that Five Nations matches were played in a fair variety of conditions.

The Scots were the strongest objectors to the proposal. The oldest fixture in the record books was theirs with England, traditionally played on the third Saturday in March, and they wanted to retain the status quo until at least 1973, their Centenary season.

In 1966, the English and Welsh agreed to experiment with their date and the first change occurred in the 1966-7 season. A full-scale tour by the Wallabies took place that winter, making the Test fixture list very congested in January and February.

So for the 1967 Five Nations it was agreed to fix the date of the Wales-England match at Cardiff for Saturday, April 15. France and Ireland, who had often met on the third Saturday in January, had already experimented with delaying their fixture to April (between 1958 and 1962 and again in 1964) and also agreed to play on April 15, 1967.

The appeal of fair weather with the Championship title in the balance gave the double-header "Super Saturday" status - England were looking for the Triple Crown and a possible Championship title while France, too, were in with a good chance of winning the title. Wales were fighting to avoid a Five Nations whitewash.

Both games were grand spectacles giving impetus to the campaign for double-header rotation in future Five Nations tournaments. There was strong support, too, from the clubs. Their gates suffered when Five Nations rugby was broadcast live on television, so the idea of having only five weekends disrupted on a double-header system instead of the nine or ten that were affected by the fixed pattern of fixtures was very attractive.

Wales hosted England in excellent conditions at Cardiff in mid-April again in 1969, England entertained Wales at Twickenham in late February in 1970 and rotation of fixtures was finally introduced in 1974.

The family of Howard Davies (Wales 1939-47) recently presented his international jerseys to his local rugby club. Among them was an unidentified white shirt bearing a badge with the crests of England, Scotland and Wales. Do you have any idea what this shirt represents? Anon, Wales

Howard Davies succeeded Viv Jenkins as Wales's fullback after the 3-0 defeat at Twickenham in January 1939. He played against Scotland and Ireland and resumed after the War by playing in all games of the 1947 Five Nations' Championship, France's first appearance since 1931.

His jerseys have been presented to his home town club, Burry Port RFC in West Wales. He was capped from Swansea in 1939 but had joined Llanelli when he won his last four caps after the War.

My guess is that the mystery jersey is his Great Britain shirt from the war-charities game between Army 23-15 Great Britain played at Richmond Athletic Ground on Saturday April 20, 1940. It was the last "big" game played in that first war-time season - during the so-called "Phoney" war period.

The Army staged a late comeback to win after trailing 15-9 with 15 minutes to go.

The sides were:

Army: V G J Jenkins; E J Unwin (captain), P Cranmer, W Wooller, A F Dawkins; F J Reynolds, H Tanner; W E N Davis, W H Travers, R E Prescott, R B Mayne, T F Huskisson, G B Horsburgh, S Walker, A W B Buchanan

Great Britain: C H Davies; C Matthews, F G Edwards, J Heaton, G A Hollis; T A Kemp (captain), R T Campbell; D E Teden, C G Gilthorpe, R W F Sampson, S R Couchman, L Davies, J T W Berry, C L Newton-Thompson, J K Watkins Referee: C H Gadney

Scoring sequence: Heaton try & Heaton con (0-5); Wooller try (3-5); Dawkins try (6-5); Heaton try & Heaton con (6-10). HT. Hollis try & Heaton con (6-15); Wooller try (9-15); Reynolds dropped goal (13-15); Unwin try & Jenkins con (18-15); Buchanan try & Jenkins con (23-15). FINAL

The GB team was drawn from English, Scottish and Welsh players. Tries were worth three points and dropped goals four at the time.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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