Ask John
Alfred Wood, The Calcutta Cup and siblings capped by different countries
John Griffiths
October 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 this edition, John answers questions on the career of Alfred Wood, the Calcutta Cup, siblings capped for two countries and the leading Heineken Cup try-scorers.

Q. I'm researching a distant relative, Alfred Ernest Wood, who played rugby before World War 1. He was born in Wolverhampton, went to live in Newton Abbot, Devon, and later moved to Bolton where he died in 1963. Can you give me any other information about him? In the 1911 census it states he was a professional footballer. Glenys Wood, Wales

A. Alfred Ernest Wood was a well-known rugby international player in both codes in the years before World War 1.

He played rugby union for Swindon, Newton Abbot, Bristol, Gloucester and Cheltenham before 'going north' and joining Oldham rugby league in 1908. He played for Gloucester as their extra half-back against the original All Blacks in 1905, but he was mainly noted as a fullback with a siege-gun kick. He came to the attention of the England selection committee playing for Devon and later Gloucestershire in the County Championship.

In the early 1900s the competition was regarded as the proving ground for selection for the English rugby union trials and in the winter of 1907-08, after some outstanding performances for Gloucestershire, Wood finally forced his way into the South XV that faced the North in a match played at Hartlepool. He cut an impressive figure in the South's 26-3 victory in what was effectively the final England trial and he was selected to make his international debut against France on New Year's Day, 1908. He also played against Wales (in the famous fog match at Bristol) and Ireland that season before turning professional and signing for Oldham, where he enjoyed a long and successful league career.

He gained a RL Championship medal for Oldham in 1910, having gained a runners-up medal with the club the season before - his first season in the professional ranks. He also picked up a Challenge Cup runners-up medal for Oldham in the 1912 Final against Dewsbury where his opposite fullback was John Jackett, who had been his main challenger for the England position in the Union game.

Wood went on to represent Great Britain in four rugby league Tests between 1911 and 1914, landing goals in each game. He toured with the Great Britain side that went to Australia and New Zealand in 1914 and kicked four goals in the famous "Rorke's Drift" Test at the SCG that decided the series.

Three other former Union internationals - Willie "Avon" Davies and Percy Coldrick (Wales) and Dave Holland (England) played in that Test. The tourists were reduced to nine men for part of the game, but staved off intense Aussie pressure to win the match 14-6 and so take the series 2-1. Wood finished as the tour's leading scorer, his 97 points comprising 47 goals and a try.

Beyond the playing fields he was a publican in his rugby union days, finishing off as mine host at the Prince of Wales in Cheltenham. When he went there in January 1908, the Gloucester club suspected that their great rivals, Cheltenham RFC, had engineered his appointment in order to lure him from the Cherry and Whites.

By the following year, however, he was established in the Manchester area where he later worked for many years as an engineer's fitter for AV Roe (Aircraft) Ltd.

Q. Should a game be drawn between England and Scotland for the Calcutta Cup who holds the cup? The team who previously held it or does no side hold it when drawn? Andrew de Klerk, South Africa

A. The England-Scotland encounter, incidentally, has produced more drawn matches than any other fixture in international history - 17 to date, the most recent being in 1989. When the match is drawn, it is customary for the Cup to be retained by the side that previously held it.

The Calcutta Cup was first contested in 1879. The Calcutta Club in India had folded and its proceeds, which amounted to the equivalent of about £60 sterling, were used to fashion a silver trophy of distinct Indian workmanship. The trophy was donated to the Rugby Football Union (RFU) "for the encouragement of rugby football".

The RFU decided to offer the trophy as the prize for the winners of the annual England-Scotland match, the oldest and, for many years, considered to be the most important match in the rugby union calendar.

Q.Are there any examples of siblings winning caps for different countries? Graham, United Kingdom

A. The first pair of brothers to win caps for different countries were the Fagans in the late 19th century.

George Fagan was a scholar at Kingstown School when he was called in as a very late replacement (just a few minutes before the kick-off) for AM (Gus) Whitestone in the Irish three-quarter line to face England in 1878. It was the first international match staged at Lansdowne Road, Dublin.

Ireland were easily beaten but the 18-year-old was reported by an Irish source as "was well worthy of his place." The chaos caused by his last-minute appearance must have been too much for the intrepid man from The Times who, in the confusion of the moment, reported the late replacement's name as F Hagan.

Nine years later Fagan's younger brother, Arthur of Guy's Hospital, was one of England's three-quarters in the same fixture. The sibling rivalry at least ended on equal terms, Ireland recording their first-ever win against England.

Fast forward more than a hundred years and the most prominent siblings capped by different countries in recent times have been the Cockbains. Matt was the backbone of the Wallaby scrum in 63 Tests between 1997 and 2003, featuring in the 1999 scrum that helped win the World Cup Final against France at Cardiff and coming off the bench in the 2003 Final against England in Sydney.

Brent Cockbain qualified through residency to play for Wales between 2003 and 2007. He won 24 caps and was an ever-present in the 2005 Grand Slam campaign.

One pair of brothers managed to play in Tests against each other twice in the same year. At Wrexham during the 1999 World Cup, Graeme Bachop played scrum-half for Japan against brother Stephen, who turned out at fly-half for Samoa, who won 43-9. They had filled the same roles in the Epson Cup encounter between the sides five months earlier in Osaka, where Japan ran out 37-34 winners.

Q.Can you tell me where I can find full details of Willem de Waal, Derick Hougaard, Andre Pretorius and Morne Steyn's provincial scoring records? Danie Joubert, South Africa

A. The South African Rugby Union (SARU) publishes a Yearbook every January/Feburary. The SA Rugby Annual is compiled by a three-man editorial team led by Andy Colquhoun and supported by a strong team of statisticians.

The current edition - SA Rugby Annual 2009, which is the 38th of the series - appeared earlier this year giving full statistical details of all South African first-class matches played in 2008. A feature of the Yearbook is its excellent Who's Who of first-class players. This provides updated full career statistics, including match appearances, tries, conversions, penalties and dropped goals scored by all players who featured in Test, Super 14 and South African provincial matches in 2008.

Details for de Waal, Hougaard and Steyn are given there. Those for Pretorius, who was not involved in any first-class rugby in South Africa in 2008, will be found in the SA Rugby Annual 2008.

Q. I have a question regarding 'composite' teams in your statistics section. While British & Irish Lions and Pacific Island Tests are counted towards an individual's records, why are the South American Jaguars (e.g.Hugo Porta) and appearances for World XV's (where the host nation has given test caps in those games e.g. SA '89 and NZ '92) not counted in individuals records? And what about the NZ Cavaliers - where the IRB acknowledges the South African caps awarded in those games? I appreciate Wales have capped players against the Barbarians (twice), but I don't understand why those stats don't feature in the players on the Baa-Baas' side records. Ryan Spencer, Wales

A. Good question. The explanation is that the British & Irish and Pacific Islands Test sides are selected by officially-recognised composite bodies - the Four Home Unions Committee and PIRA respectively. The former represents England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, who are fully recognised IRB members. Similarly PIRA is the umbrella representing the IRB member Unions in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

The various World XV selections (and President's XVs), the (rebel) New Zealand Cavaliers of 1986 and the Jaguars (who featured in eight Tests against South Africa between 1980 and 1984) were essentially "invitation" sides, like the Barbarians. Their players were not selected on merit by a body representative of the IRB-member Unions from which they came.

It is interesting to note that, in the first seven of their eight Tests against South Africa, the Jaguars were "Argentina" in all but name. For their Test in Cape Town in 1984 - the last played by the Jaguars - there were 13 Argentine international players and one each from Spain and Uruguay. Hugo Porta led the composite team in all of its Tests.

Q. Who are the leading try-scorers in the history of the European Cup tournament? Anon

A.Vincent Clerc became the holder of the try-scoring record with his brace for Toulouse against Sale Sharks earlier this month. The previous record-holder was Dafydd James, the former Welsh wing whose tries were scored for Pontypridd, Bridgend, Celtic Warriors, Llanelli Scarlets and Harlequins.

The leading try-getters to date are:

30* Vincent Clerc, (Toulouse)
29 Dafydd James, (Pontypridd, Bridgend, Warriors, Scarlets & Harlequins)
25 Brian O'Driscoll, (Leinster)
24 Michel Marfaing, (Toulouse)
24 Shane Horgan, (Leinster)
23 Anthony Foley, (Munster)
23* Ben Cohen, (Northampton, Sale)
23* Tom Voyce, (Bath, Wasps, Gloucester)
* indicates that the player has scored tries in the 2009-10 Heineken Cup tournament.


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