April 4 down the years
England win but lose out, France just win
Laurence Dallaglio on the charge against Ireland in 1998 © Getty Images
England's 35-17 win against Ireland rounded off a Triple Crown season - their fourth on the trot - in which they set an all-time record points aggregate of 146 for a Five Nations Championship. Despite this fact they still finished behind France in the table, Les Bleus racking up a Grand Slam. The afternoon ended on sour note with Ireland forward David Corkery calling England captain Lawrence Dallaglio "ungentlemanly" after he refused to shake his hand at the end. The two players exchanged angry words before Dallaglio turned away headed to the dressing rooms. "I went up to him to shake his hand and he refused," Corkery said. "I don't know why, perhaps it was something that had gone on earlier in the game. I went into the dressing rooms and we later shook hands but I feel a bit aggrieved. Rugby is a gentleman's game but what he did was not very gentlemanly."
France beat Wales 11-3 in a temperature of 75°F in Paris to win the Five Nations title outright for the first time. They had earlier travelled to London to face England, securing a 3-3 draw, the single point proving to be enough to keep them clear of Ireland, Wales and England, all tied together on four points.
Scotland denying England Grand Slams and Triple Crowns seem to have been common occurrences, but this time the boot was on the other foot as Scotland's Triple Crown hopes ended in a 21-12 defeat at Twickenham. Marcus Rose scored 17 of England's points .
Sale owner Brian Kennedy warned the Premiership was in deep financial trouble and needed more support from the RFU. "I have been at this club for about 11 years and I have spent £15million, so it can get debilitating when you're having to spend that amount just to keep the doors open," he said. "The game itself is bust and that's the case with maybe eight of the 12 clubs, so you've got owners who have to continually put their hands in their pockets while the RFU are making £26m or £27m a year."
A different era, same moans. Leicester's secretary wrote to the Daily Express to demand support from the RFU because of falling income resulting from dwindling crowds. He said that in the 1920s the Tigers averaged between 10,000 and 15,000 but this had fallen to nearer 5,000.
A blow for Wales as news broke 22-year-old George Andrews had signed for rugby league side Leeds and would make his debut the next day. He was offered a £600 signing-on fee plus £5 for a win, £4 for a draw and £3 for a loss. Andrews, who had won five caps for Wales, was one of the brightest young three-quarters in the country and had been top scorer for Newport for four seasons.
Fran Cotton's international career was put in doubt when he was sent off in Sale's John Player Cup semi-final against Gosforth. Earlier in the year the RFU, clamping down on discipline, had said anyone sent off would be barred from representing England for 12 months. But the RFU policy was overlooked, the Daily Mail noting the decision "drove a coach and horses through its own rules".
Phil Bennett started in the No. 10 jersey for Wales for the first time, helping them to an 11-6 Cardiff win against the French that guaranteed a share of the Five Nations Championship title. Bennett had earlier started games on the wing and in the centre for Wales, but these experiments ended quickly after his Paris excursion as he went on to win all of his further caps for Wales at fly-half.
Ieuan Evans and Robert Norster gave Wales a dream start with splendid tries against Ireland at Cardiff. While Wales frittered away chances to score in the second half, Ireland took theirs and ran out 15-11 winners to record back-to-back wins on Welsh soil for the first time.
In the long-standing Easter Saturday fixture at Cardiff the home side made the Barbarians work hard for an 11-9 victory. Each side scored three tries, but John Allan's single conversion gives the Baa-Baas their narrow win.
Australia scored a psychological blow ahead of the inaugural World Cup with a 21-12 win over New Zealand in the Sydney Sevens final. It was a fairly unsavoury affair, and players were pelted with beer cans as they warmed up