Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
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From my travels I have collected many photos; had them sent to me or saved them, because, well, behind most of them there is a good story!
23 October 2014
The things you find at home all these years later. While rummaging through some family shots I came across this picture I took from the commentary scaffold at what was then Buckhurst Park in Suva, Fiji. It shows the Fiji and British Isles teams coming onto the field before the playing of the last game of the Lions 26 match tour of New Zealand and Fiji in 1977. I think the high aspect of the shot might make it unique to Fiji rugby history. The scaffold was so rickety no photographers were allowed on it. This was the day Fiji's national team scored perhaps their most famous home victory. Fiji won 25-21. They could be rightly proud of course but it is true the Lions did not approach the fixture with true dedication. I can still recall their poolside party raging on and keeping me awake 16 hours before kickoff! Read more »
26 September 2014
28 August 2014
I had been to China a number of times before 2014. The main time was for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, then for the Paralympic Games which followed. I was in the country then for nearly two months. I had been for rugby reasons too; Firstly to Shanghai for several IRB 7s rugby tournaments and then there was a similar event in Beijing in 2003. That time the IRB were hoping to impress upon the 2008 Chinese Olympic Games Officials how nicely their game would sit in an Olympic programme. That didn't happen then but it has now. So in 2014 here I was in Nanjing and forgive me if I felt part of a breakthrough rugby broadcast team for the Olympic movement. The Summer Youth Sevens event in Nanjing was great fun. So I made sure I found time to make an appropriate 'location' picture to mark my time in this city. Here I am at the Nanjing Old City Wall with the Olympic rings a backdrop. Construction on the wall was started in 1366. Read more »
16 August 2014
Is this the best photograph ever taken of a rugby dive-pass? If it's not then show me a better one. This is the great Danie Craven playing for South Africa v New Zealand in the third test match of 1937 at Eden Park in Auckland. Some old historians claim Craven 'invented' the dive-pass for a halfback in the 1930s but in fact it was first used to best effect by an earlier Springbok half, by the name of Dauncie Devine - in the South African team which played New Zealand in South Africa in 1928. Read more »
17 June 2014
The All Blacks in full colour playing their test matches are a familiar sight these days. But it was not always that way. This is a freeze-frame photo taken from the first ever live telecast of New Zealand's famous team on television. Coverage was in black and white only and only four cameras intercut the action. Focus on the play a far from the high definition of the modern digital coverage of today. New Zealand beat England in this match in 1954 by 5-0. Read more »
The All Blacks beat Wales 19-0 in Swansea; with, they said, one point scored for every year they had waited to avenge Wales's controversial 3-0 win in 1905.
Jedforest, Newcastle and Scotland
51 internationals for Scotland 1988-99
Described once as ‘a one-off, a complete and utter mystery’ as a person, Gary Armstrong ended his international career remembered as a deeply steadfast scrumhalf whose commitment to any team he played for could never be denied. The 'mystery' referred to extreme shyness.
But like a lot of shy rugby people Armstrong expressed himself strongly once he ran on to the field. He always tackled way above his diminutive stature, was an elusive runner, especially around the short side of a scrum, and above all was unswerving in his courage. He may have been a quiet man but when he played his final game for his country, captaining the team against the All Blacks at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, he was described afterwards by his coach Jim Telfer as ‘the bravest man I ever saw play for Scotland’.
Armstrong made his debut for Scotland in 1988 and only months later was in the British Isles team which toured Australia. On that trip he failed to make the test teams, losing out to Robert Jones of Wales, but in 1990 he played some of his greatest rugby. Not only was he a powerful force in the Scottish touring team to New Zealand, a team which harried the All Blacks over two close tests, but he also played a pivotal role in Scotland’s epic victory over the ‘auld enemy’, England, in the critical Five Nations and Grand Slam match of that year.
Injuries kept him out for two seasons and one time, after 28 tests, he actually retired from test rugby to concentrate on his dearly loved Jedforest team. But Scotland seemed to always call Armstrong back and each time they did he gave his usual 110%. He was captain of Scotland when they won the Five Nations in 1999 (of great satisfaction considering they were 100-1 outsiders when the season started). He also was one of the rare players to play the 1991 World Cup series, then miss the 1995 series in South Africa (he was injured), only to be back for the World Cup in 1999.
He retired from international play after captaining and playing strongly in the quarter-final match against New Zealand on his beloved Murrayfield.
After sevens years of productive play as a professional with the Newcastle Falcons, Armstrong became one of the first professionals with the new Scottish Borders professional team in 2002, signing as a 35 year old on a three-year contract!
In which town or city was the first international rugby match played in Wales?