Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
25 November 2017
From time to time there are those rugby fans who nostalgically reflect on their time in the game; and they do it by the magic of poetry. You will find some memorable efforts on this website. This latest one comes from James Simpson of New Zealand who clearly remembers with enormous affection his days of playing in the hooking position - and his enormous respect for others who did so too.
The Ace In The Pack
He hangs between two henchmen all Cauliflower ears,
Knuckles and boots their stock-in-trade
Their most sociable act is sculling their beers
No lovers of high debate
For free thought is something found in the North
No need for it way down here
Our traditions and rituals rule the way we go forth
We act without fancy or fear
No video ref nor rulings from touch
We fix faults off our own bat
Our answer to those who doth protesteth too much
Is to 'Take that and that and that.'
Some say a fine mind marks a man out
For life as a great physician
But a fine mind will only cause doubt
When playing the hookers position
Diagnostic skills the pundits go on
Are traits more fitting a back
But those in the know in the front row club
Say such powers are much prized in the pack
Tho’ strong arms and thick skulls when put to the test
Are assets that front rowers like
And tho’ he had them as well we’ll remember him best
For the snakelike speed of his strike
And we’ll also remember in years to come
Like Anzacs from warfare and strife
The attitudes forged in the heat of the scrum
Will last you the rest of your life.
Wellington, New Zealand
The great Colin Meads plays his last game for his country on this day.
His career as an All Black had lasted 15 seasons inclusive 1957-71. It ended leading NZ to a 14-14 draw again the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park.
Swansea and Wales
26 internationals for Wales 1949–59
2 internationals for British Isles 1955
One of the finest loose forwards Wales produced in the post World War II era, who later became one of the best writers on the game. His full name was Richard Clement Charles Thomas, but from his earliest days the shortened ‘Clem’ was a welcome diminutive.
A tough flanker, he was a ‘Swansea Jack’ through and through, who first made the Welsh team for its end-of-season international against France in Paris in 1949. France won narrowly by 5–3, in what was a battle to avoid last place in the championship. Thomas paid the price for what some in Wales saw as a premature selection (he was only 20 years old) and he was not asked to play internationally again for two seasons.
He was recalled in 1952 as part of the Grand Slam-winning Welsh team and continued to represent Wales until 1959. He toured South Africa as part of the 1955 Lions team, but appendicitis restricted him to two of the four test matches.
Thomas was Welsh captain in his last two seasons, 1957–58 and 1958–59, and was tipped as a possible captain of the British Lions to New Zealand in 1959. Perhaps it was Wales’s modest record in the 1958–59 season which held him back from winning that honour.
When Thomas retired, the butcher became a successful businessman, as well as writing for the Guardian and the Observer with much distinction.
When discussions about Clem Thomas arise in Welsh rugby he is invariably remembered as the player who put in the famous cross-kick against New Zealand in Cardiff in 1953. Thomas was close to the touchline on one side of the field, and, seeing his way ahead blocked by All Blacks, he kicked the ball on an angle towards the goal posts. The two rival wings, arguably the fastest two men in world rugby at that time, Ron Jarden of New Zealand and Ken Jones of Wales, were both standing clear of any other players. When Thomas’s kick landed, it bounced perfectly into the hands of Jones and he sprinted in for a winning try. As the kicker of the ball Thomas was acclaimed as a hero for Wales, and in the years afterwards, he often reflected how his life might have changed had the ball bounced the other way into the hands of Jarden, the flying All Black!
How many Wanganui club players were in the combined King Country-Wanganui team which beat the 1966 British Lions team in Wanganui?