Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
4 December 2014
Close your eyes and think of the green lawns of Twickenham, or Eden Park, or Ellis Park - or anywhere in modern times where test rugby is played. You would NEVER see mud like this. All you see these days is serried lines of mown greenery.
But this picture shows the conditions where so many famous rugby games up until perhaps the 1970s or 80s were played in. If it rained regularly grounds became 'heavy' but tour matches still went ahead. Teams learned to play 'wet weather rugby' or 'mud bath rugby.'
This picture was taken at Rugby Park in Whangarei in 1956 when the touring Springboks played North Auckland. The game was a critical one; South Africa had lost to Waikato in their first tour game just four days earlier so having a second loss would have been a disaster for their tour hopes.
South Africa beat the Northerners by just 3-0 in probably the worst conditions ever seen in a major match in New Zealand. The ground is now part of Whangarei Boys High School and is in much better shape these days.
Thank goodness for the advancement in understanding turf culture!
[And who is the injured player in the picture from that far off dramatic day?
Your guess is as good as mine.]
The wettest day ever saw NZ beat Scotland 24-0 at the Eden Park pool! Deep puddles everywhere. The ABs swam better than their opponents!
The game of Rugby Union has always been a possible game for everyman (or increasingly these days for every woman) who chooses it as their recreation or profession. But the game has also attracted famous people from other walks of life to enjoy rugby’s excitement and action;
[With thanks to Wes Clark’s Internet site, here is a selection from his list of “Famous Players”; with keithquinnrugby.com's additions]
Prince William and Prince Harry; The two played while at Eton, William, rising to the 3rd XV at the famous school.
Prince Edward; played second XV of Jesus College, Cambridge.
Peter Phillips; the son of Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, he is the grandson to Queen Elizabeth II. He was an open side flanker on the Scottish Schools team that toured South Africa in 1996. Captained Exeter University to win British University Sports association 2nd XV title.
George W. Bush; US President. Played rugby while at Yale University. Played in the team which famously beat Harvard University in 1968.
Bill Clinton; The USA President; was a second row forward for Oxford University, rising to be in the University’s second XV.
Yoshio Mori; former Japanese Prime Minister, who was a rugby player all his life. He played Golden Oldies rugby well into his 60s. He also revealed he toured to New Zealand with a supporters tour to watch Tri Nations rugby.
George Brown; British Prime Minister 2007-2010. When playing for the Kirkaldy first XV as a 15 year old he suffered a detached retina which led to the permanent loss on the sight in one eye.
Jacques Chirac; The cformer President of France. He played for the Youth team of the Brive Club and later at University.
Winston Churchill; It is known he ‘hated’ playing rugby at Sandhurst Military College.
Idi Amin; dictator of Uganda 1971-79. He was good enough to make the East Africa XV in Nairobi. Played mostly as a lock forward. He was reserve in the East Africa XV v the 1955 British Isles touring team on its way home from South Africa.
Roh Tae Woo; former President of South Korea was an enthusiastic club player.
Donal Spring; Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland. Seven caps for Ireland as a lock forward 1978-81.
Keith Holyoake; former New Zealand Prime Minister who played first class rugby. A hooker for five seasons of first-class rugby for the Golden Bay- Motueka Rugby Union (1925-29).
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevera; Marxist guerilla legend in Cuba. Played rugby in his teenage days in Argentina. When he lived in Cordoba his club was Estudiantest. He was so enamored with the game he, and his friends, launched a magazine called ‘Tackle’.
From the film world
Richard Harris; Played in Ireland in two Munster School's trials and represented Munster Under-20s. He loved the game so much he claimed he would give away all of the honours and accolades he won as an actor to have worn the Irish jersey just once. In keeping with his wishes he was buried in his Munster Junior playing jersey.
Richard Burton; Played representative rugby as a youth in Wales; playing at school, University and in the RAF as a flanker. Once on stage doing Shakespeare in a Saturday afternoon matinee, and hoping to learn of the score of a Welsh international match being played at the same time, he demanded of an actor who arrived on stage ‘what news does't thou bring me, good news I hope.’ The other actor apparently mouthed a reply which contained, in a Shakespearean manner, whether Wales had won or lost.
Gerard Depardieu; played a rugby coach in the film “Le Placard” and is a part owner of a Division 1 rugby club in France.
Russell Crowe; New Zealand-born actor who lost one of his front teeth when he was playing rugby as a boy.
Charlie Chaplin; played rugby while at school in England
Hugh Jackman; When attending school in Sydney at Knox Grammar School he was a regular rugby player.
Javier Bardem: He was outstanding rugby prospect in his teenage years in Madrid, Spain. He made the Spanish international teams at Under-16 and under-18 levels as a flanker or prop forward.
Jacques Rogge; President of the International Olympic Committee. A Belgian international player. He sometimes down-played his playing ability, once saying 'if you stay by your telephone long enough it will eventually rinmg and you will be invited to play for Belgium!'
Owen Hart; The famous WWF wrestler who fell to his death in Kansas City in 1999. He played rugby for Western Canada High School, and he met his wife at a rugby match.
Matthew Pinsett; multi-Olympic rowing gold medallist. He was a regular lock for a number of seasons at the English club, Henley. And also at Eton.
Meat Loaf; the singer apparently played rugby at college in the Northwest of USA.
P.G.Wodehouse; Quoted as ‘one of the leading lights of rugby at Dulwich College, London, around the turn of the century. The school still has copies of some of the match reports he used to write for the school.’
James Joyce; played at Belvedere in Dublin.
Sir Edmund Hillary; the New Zealand mountaineer who conquered Mt Everest in 1953. He played rugby at Auckland Grammar School in the 1930s.
Bolger, Jim. The former New Zealand Prime Minister was a senior club prop forward in the King Country rugby union.
Tony O’Reilly; Irish businessman who was once called by some as one of the world’s richest men. He was an outstanding player who played for the British and Irish Lions and for Ireland. In total he played 29 internationals for Ireland and ten tests for the British Isles (in 1955-59)
Warren Zevon; rock singer of ‘Werewolves of London’ fame. Enjoyed rugby so much he acknowledged the Atlanta Renegades club on the liner notes for one of his albums.
David Tua; fought Lennox Lewis for the World Heavyweight boxing title. Tua once played wing three-quarter at school and in club play in Auckland, New Zealand.
Eric Liddell. A Scottish rugby international and Olympic track gold medallist. His life was depicted in the famous film ‘Chariots of Fire.’
Tony Abbott. The Australia Prime Minister was a First Grade player for Sydney University.
.....[This list is by no means full. Please send additions or alterations to firstname.lastname@example.org ]
In the Rugby World Cups 1987-2011 which final drew the biggest crowd?