Ask John
Versatile internationals, drop goal specialists and FA Cup Final connections
John Griffiths
May 25, 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 those players capped as a back and a forward, drop goal specialists in the Super 12/14, Lions tour openers and FA Cup Final connections.

Q. Who are the players that have played international rugby both as a back and as a forward in their respective teams? Kaos, Australia

Versatility is as old as Test rugby. The Clapham Rovers player, Reg Birkett, was a forward for England in the first-ever international match, staged at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871. England lost to Scotland, Birkett scoring their only try that day. The early internationals were 20-a-side matches, but by 1877 teams had been reduced to fifteens. Towards the end of his career, when the game featured fewer forwards, Birkett was selected for England as a threequarter.

Another forward in that first international was Scotland's captain, the Hon Francis Moncreiff. He led Scotland as a half-back in the return match at Kennington Oval in 1872.

Arguably the most versatile of all Test players was the Springbok, Danie Craven, who started international matches as a centre, fly-half, scrum-half and No.8 for South Africa in the thirties. Mauro Bergamasco, the current Italian flanker, has started in two positions behind the scrum, appearing at Twickenham earlier this year at scrum-half and winning caps as a wing in the 2003 Six Nations. René Lasserre, who played for France before and after the Great War, won his first cap as a fullback and also played as a centre before becoming the outstanding French flanker of the early twenties.

The following players from the Six Nations, Tri Nations and Lions have started Tests as forwards and backs:
Ma Bergamasco (Italy)
R H Birkett (England)
J-R Bourdeu (France)
B N Casement (Ireland)
H L Cox (Ireland)
D H Craven (South Africa)
A P Cronyn (Ireland)
R Duval (France)
R Galbraith (Ireland)
F Gardiner (Ireland)
H G S Gray (Lions)
G F Harding (Wales)
R Johnston (Ireland/Lions)
R Lasserre (France)
M Leuvielle (France)
J L H MacFarlane (Scotland)
E N McIlwaine (Ireland)
A W D Meares (Ireland/Lions)
Hon F J Moncreiff (Scotland)
C H Pillman (England/Lions)
A Quilis (France)
G H Sonnekus (South Africa)
J K Tod (Scotland)
E Treharne (Wales)
J P R Williams (Wales/Lions)

*List excludes those New Zealanders (and opponents) who occupied the "rover" position, a hybrid scrum-half/wing-forward who stood adjacent to the scrum before the 2-3-2 scrum formation was outlawed in the 1930s.

Q. Have either the Bulls (ex-Northern Transvaal and Northern Bulls) or Chiefs (ex-Waikato Chiefs) figured in a Super 12/14 Final before? Anon

Next weekend's Super 14 Final will be the first for the Chiefs and the second for the Bulls, who beat the Sharks 20-19 in the 2007 Final in Durban There have been 14 previous matches between the Bulls and Chiefs in the professional era:
1996 Chiefs 17-9 (Hamilton)
1997 N Transvaal 34-27 (Pretoria)
1998 Chiefs 37-25 (Hamilton)
1999 Chiefs 39-31 (Pretoria)
2000 Chiefs 40-7 (Rotorua)
2001 Chiefs 49-37 (Pretoria)
2002 Chiefs 53-24 (Hamilton)
2003 Bulls 29-26 (Pretoria)
2004 Chiefs 24-22 (Hamilton)
2005 Bulls 29-26 (Pretoria)
2006 Drawn 26-26 (Hamilton)
2007 Bulls 30-27 (Pretoria)
2008 Chiefs 43-27 (Hamilton)
2009 Bulls 33-27 (Pretoria)

Q. What is the record for most dropped goals in a Super 14 match? Anon

Morné Steyn set the record with his four drops against the Crusaders in Saturday's semi-final. The list of most dropped goals in a Super 12/14 match reads:
4 by Morné Steyn for Bulls v Crusaders 2009
3 by Andrew Mehrtens for Crusaders v Highlanders 1998
3 by Louis Koen for Bulls v Cats 2003

Steyn has also set a new record for most dropped goals in a Super 12/14 season. He has kicked ten this season, three more than the previous record set by Koen (for the Bulls) in 2003.

Q. Have the Lions ever lost the opening match of a tour to South Africa? Anon

In the dozen previous tours to South Africa the Lions won nine of their opening matches and lost three. The worst start to a South African tour was in 1903 when Mark Morrison's side lost the first three games, all staged at Newlands in Cape Town. They were the first British/Irish team to lose a Test series, drawing two Tests and losing the third and final one of the series. The Lions of 1955 were the last outfit to lose their opening match, but they did go on to share the Test series 2-2.

Results of Lions tour openers in South Africa:
1891 v Cape Town Clubs Won 15-1
1896 v Cape Town Clubs Won 14-9
1903 v Western Province Country Lost 7-13
1910 v South-Western Districts Won 14-4
1924 v Western Province Town & Country Lost 6-7
1938 v Border Won 11-8
1955 v Western Transvaal Lost 6-9
1962 v Rhodesia Won 38-9
1968 v Western Transvaal Won 20-12
1974 v Western Transvaal Won 59-13
1980 v Eastern Province Won 28-16
1997 v Eastern Province Invitational XV Won 39-11

Q. Have any Test rugby players featured in the FA Cup Final? Anon

In the early days of organised sport some clubs played both codes of football. In the early 1870s, for instance, the Clapham Rovers club in London used to play rugby one weekend and soccer the next.

The club featured in successive Cup Finals in 1879 and 1880, winning it in the latter year when Reg Birkett (see also the first question) played. He had been capped by England at rugby four times between 1871 and 1877.

Before Birkett, Henry Renny-Tailyour played rugby as a forward for Scotland against England in 1872, played soccer for the Scots the following year and was in the Royal Engineers' Xls that contested the 1872, 1874 and 1875 FA Cup Finals, achieving his winners' medal in his last appearance.

John Sutcliffe scored a try and kicked a conversion in his only rugby Test for England, against the New Zealand Native team in 1889, before switching codes later the same year. He joined Bolton Wanderes and was their goalkeeper in the 1894 Final, when they lost 4-1 to Notts County.

The only other rugby international with FA Cup Final connections was the London Scottish fullback, Pat Harrower, who played for Scotland against Wales at Glasgow in 1885. Twenty years later he refereed the Aston Villa - Newcastle United final at Crystal Palace.

The great all-rounder Charles Fry, who played in the 1902 Cup Final for Southampton, narrowly missed out on both a rugby Blue at Oxford and an England rugby cap. He was a Barbarian, however, turning out for the club on the wing in their Christmas holiday fixtures against Bath, Cardiff and Newport in 1894.

Q. Who holds the record for most tries scored in a Twickenham Test? Anon

Rory Underwood set the Twickenham Test record, crossing five times against Fiji in the 1989 autumn international. He also scored a hat-trick at the ground playing against Argentina in 1990. Only Jason Robinson has also scored three or more tries twice in Twickenham Tests.

To date, no visiting player has managed a try hat-trick at Twickenham. The feat has been achieved thirteen times by England players:
R Underwood, 5 tries - v Fiji, 1989
J C Guscott, 4 tries - v United States, 1999
J T Robinson, 4 tries - v Romania, 2001
N J Easter, 4 tries - v Wales, 2007
V H M Coates, 3 tries - v France, 1913
H P Jacob, 3 tries - v France, 1924
C Oti, 3 tries - v Ireland, 1988
R Underwood, 3 tires - v Argentina, 1990
B C Cohen, 3 tries - v Romania, 2001
D D Luger, 3 tries - v Romania, 2001
J T Robinson, 3 tries - v Canada, 2004
M J Cueto, 3 tries - v Italy, 2005
J D Noon, 3 tries - v Scotland, 2005


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