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Arguably he was the slowest back on the field but nothing could stop the flying Mortlock; his try that greatly assisted the Aussies in their 22-10 sensational dispatch of the All Blacks.
Leicester, Harlequins and England
31 internationals for England 1920–27
William Wavell Wakefield was a highly successful player, thinker, innovator and captain. He became one of the world game’s best administrators, becoming an England committeeman before rising to be president of the Rugby Football Union in 1950. He served as a delegate on the International Rugby Board for the seven years up until 1961 and wrote extensively about the game, in his later years becoming a symbol of wise counsel for amateur rugby and its future.
The young Wavell Wakefield was a supremely fit rugby player, winning his 31 international caps as a flanker, lock or No. 8. He first played for England in 1920, when a strong Welsh side thrashed him and 10 other new caps. The selectors persevered with many of the new players, and out of their rising confidence came one of England’s best eras.
The England team, with Wakefield, the brilliant halfbacks ‘Dave’ Davies and Cyril Kershaw, Cyril Lowe the wing, and forwards Tom Voyce and Ronald Cove-Smith, combined to win the Five Nations crown three times in the first four years of the 1920s.
Wakefield played his first 21 internationals consecutively, winning 17 times with one draw. By 1927, when he was hampered by injuries, the highly popular and respected ‘Wakers’ had reached 31 caps – an England record for any position and one that stood until 1969, when it was passed by D.P. ‘Budge’ Rogers.
Wakefield is often remembered as one of England’s best captains and tactical planners. As captain of Cambridge University and England, he insisted on each member of the forward pack undertaking set roles, rather than plodding together from set piece to set piece, as had been the style.
Under his leadership, England’s back row combinations became the first in the world to work together as a ‘team’, which is commonplace in modern times. Certainly he was highly successful. In his seven seasons in the England team he took part in three championship wins, three Triple Crowns and three Grand Slams. It is a tribute to him that those years came to be known in English rugby as the ‘Wakefield Era’.
After his active rugby days he was a Member of Parliament and then became the first Baron Wakefield of Kendal. He died in 1983.
How many test matches for Australia did the three famous Ella brothers play, on the field at the same time?