Ask John
Leading non-Lions, Four-countries matches and Wales v Ireland Triple Crown deciders
John Griffiths
March 16, 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 reveals the leading non-Lions, the origins of the four-countries match and Wales v Ireland Triple Crown deciders.

Q.Who are the ten leading cap holders who haven't gone on a Lions tour? Simon Corcoran, Ireland

A. The list of Home Unions non-Lions with most Test appearances makes impressive reading, with all four countries having at least one player in the top dozen:

94 - Chris Paterson (Scotland)
92 - Gareth Llewellyn (Wales)
88 - Peter Stringer (Ireland)
82 - Girvan Dempsey (Ireland)
72 - David Humphreys (Ireland)
71 - Stuart Grimes (Scotland)
71 - Joe Worsley (England)
70 - Kenny Logan (Scotland)
70 - Kevin Maggs (Ireland)
65 - Marcus Horan (Ireland)
62 - Anthony Foley (Ireland)
60 - Bryan Redpath (Scotland)

Six more players would appear in the list if the qualification were altered to include most-capped players in the Home Unions who haven't appeared in a Test for the Lions:

92 - Malcolm O'Kelly (Ireland)
87 - Scott Murray (Scotland)
73 - Jason White (Scotland)
65 - Simon Taylor (Scotland)
62 - Tom Shanklin (Wales)
61 - Doddie Weir (Scotland)

NB: Test appearances given are up to March 16, 2009.

Q. I saw an auction for a match programme for Ireland & Scotland v England & Wales in 1955. I can't find any info on this game or reason behind it. Was it a tradition or one off charity game? Brendan McMahon, Scotland

A. When rugby celebrated its Centenary in 1923 a special four-countries match between England & Wales and Scotland & Ireland was staged on the grounds of Rugby School. It became the tradition for special rugby occasions to be marked by repeating the fixture. There were similar matches at Twickenham celebrating the opening of the Rowland Hill Memorial Gates (1929) and the ground's silver jubilee (1959), and the RFU staged a match there in 1970 to launch its Centenary season.

The SRU (1972 at Murrayfield), IRFU (1975 at Lansdowne Road) and WRU (1981 at Cardiff) followed the RFU tradition by marking their Centenaries with similar matches. There was also a four-countries match staged at Richmond in December 1939 to raise money for the Red Cross War charity.

The matches have usually featured fully representative fifteens and their charity/celebration status has enabled players to throw-off the inhibitions of the International Championship and play Barbarian-style rugby. One of the best games was the 1959 Twickenham Jubilee match when many of the Lions who had recently returned from New Zealand took part.

The match referred to above took place on December 31, 1955 and was staged at Lansdowne Road. It was the first post-war match of its kind and the first played in Ireland. England & Wales won 18-15, there were seven tries scored in an exciting match and 40,000 spectators were present. Jack Kyle, the outstanding Irish player of his generation, made a sparkling run near the end, but his effort to save the game was in vain.

The match programme billed the occasion as a "housewarming party." The game was staged to mark the opening of Lansdowne Road's new West Stand. Its construction raised unusual structural and planning problems as it had to incorporate a second-tier under which a main railway line ran.

There hasn't been a four-countries match since 1981, though arguably next season offers several opportunities for the fixture to be resurrected. Twickenham celebrates its Centenary as a rugby venue and Lansdowne Road is scheduled to re-open in 2010 after its extensive refurbishment. Such a match would be a good showcase for the talents of the 2009 British/Irish Lions.

Q. Further to my question about Riki Flutey's eligibility for England, your answer refers to a player being eligible for a country "where he has been resident for three consecutive years immediately preceding his selection." The relevant regulation however refers to "thirty six consecutive months of Residence immediately preceding the TIME OF PLAYING" (my emphasis). Does this not mean that the residence criteria must be fulfilled in respect of every test match he plays, not merely the first? (Riki clearly cannot become eligible for any other nation.) Paul Johns, England

A. As far as the International Board is concerned, the eligibility regulation 8.1 (c) stipulates the criterion that must be applied when a player wishes to nominate for a country other than that of his birth. The residency qualification has been established for Flutey and his application to play for England was approved based on the regulation - he was in England for 36 months prior to being selected. He does not now have to reside in England to be eligible to play for them in future.

Q. Is it true that, in the past, players were only awarded a cap for their first international appearance? If so can you tell me when this practice changed to the current system whereby players now receive a cap for each appearance? Huw Lovett, Wales

A. It was - and still is - true. The trophy cap - in those countries that continue the tradition - is only awarded to a player on his Test debut, unlike in soccer where a player is presented with a cap after each international match. For many years it has been standard media practice to refer to the number of Test appearances made by a player as his cap tally, but it is only a journalistic convention. The player receives only one cap.

Special caps are awarded by the International Board for appearing in the final stages of a Rugby World Cup tournament, and when Gareth Edwards made his 50th Test appearance for Wales, against England at Twickenham in 1978, the WRU presented him with a special trophy cap to mark the occasion - a practice that has spread to other Unions.

Q. There have been a few comments on the Glos "Shedweb" site about James Simpson-Daniel having scored for England whilst playing outside centre. Is this correct? Tony Spear, England

A. Three of his Test appearances have been made in the centre position - two as a substitute. The only time he started an England Test in the No.13 shirt was against Samoa at Twickenham in November 2005. He sat on the subs' bench for the Six Nations visit to Rome two months later and came on four minutes from time to score the last try in England's 31-16 win. His only other appearance as a centre was three years earlier against Wales in the 26-9 Six Nations win at the Millennium Stadium. He came on that day for Jonny Wilkinson and, in a rearranged back division, slotted in at centre.

Q. How many times before have Wales and Ireland met in a Triple Crown "final"? Anon

A. Before the rotation of international fixtures in the Five Nations began in 1974, the pretty rigid schedule of International Championship matches dictated that Wales and Ireland invariably met in March, near the end of the season. As a result, the outcome of the fixture often meant that one of the sides either won the Triple Crown or deprived the other of the prize.

Yet for both sides to reach the last match of the season unbeaten and battle against each other for the Crown is relatively rare. Saturday's coming Triple Crown "final" will be only the fifth time that the nations have met with either side being able to secure the trophy. Wales have won all of the previous finals.

The first occasion was back in 1905 at Swansea. The famous Welsh fly-half factory was operating at full throttle in those early years of the twentieth century, with famous players Percy Bush, Billy Trew and Dick Jones all in contention for the treasured position. Trew was the incumbent, but when he and Dick Jones were unable to play in the Irish match the selectors called up Mountain Ash's Wyndham Jones. It was to be his only appearance for his country, but he played a blinder.

It was a tight-marking game, but Jones managed to dummy his way through for a classic fly-half try at the posts and later sent Teddy Morgan in for a second try. Welsh fullback George Davies converted both and Wales won 10-3. The Triple Crown was a mythical trophy in those days, but the Welsh Rugby Union presented all their players with a souvenir miner's lamp to commemorate their feat. The most recent final was a hundred years later, in 2005, when there was still no tangible asset for the winners to clutch.

It wasn't until 2006 that RBS, the Championship's sponsors, commissioned the handsome silver dish known as the Triple Crown Trophy. Ireland and Wales are the only nations who have claimed it: Ireland won it that year (at Twickenham) and the year after (at Murrayfield) while Wales did so last year (in Dublin).

Wales-Ireland Triple Crown Finals
1905 - Wales 10-3 (Swansea)
1911 - Wales 16-0 (Cardiff)
1965 - Wales 14-8 (Cardiff)
2005 - Wales 32-20 (Cardiff)

(In 1972, Wales beat England and Scotland, and Ireland beat England before their Dublin matches with Scotland and Wales were cancelled for political reasons.)


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