Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
11 August 2014
Yes it really is going to happen! For those of us over the years who have wondered at an apparent oversight - or even a grave injustice (you can take your pick) it seems that an amalgamation between two World Rugby Halls of Fame is going to be very good news for the great New Zealand All Black Sir Colin Meads.
From 1997 a privately owned body, headquartered in New Zealand, which called itself the International Rugby Hall of Fame, had held functions every couple of years and successfully 'inducted' several dozen of the world's top international players into their IRHOF. They were great parties I must say - I attended some of them.
Included in the opening 'First XV' party held in London was none other than Colin Meads.
Then as the years rolled into the new Millennium, watching from the sidelines it seems the International Rugby Board liked the idea too of having a Hall of Fame. In 2006 the IRB therefore began their own Hall and gradually they phased out the IRHOF. How that happened is a sidebar here and probably not worth going into. Suffice to say the two bodies did not admire each other for a long time.
But as the years rolled by and over 100 men, famous teams, referees, administrators and even some media were inducted ot the IRB's Hall of Fame there seemed to have been a glaring oversight. The great Meads was always overlooked.
Forget that he had been voted by the New Zealand public as their 'Player of the Century' in 1999, and that he was a Commander of the British Empire in New Zealand, and then Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II - there was never a place for him in the IRB Hall of Fame.
There was still no place even when eight other New Zealanders were voted in ahead of him!
And no disrepect to Alfred St George Hamersley, or Vladimir Ilyushin, or the Tsimba brothers, Richard and Kennedy - or Ian Campbell the father of Chilean rugby - surely our 'Pinetree' deserved a place. Have you heard of the other people and theri contribution?
Well, forget all of the aforementioned - now in 2014-15 it is going to change. Following a protracted series of meetings between the IRB and the IRHOF the two Halls will merge. And all those previously inducted into the IRHOF will now go into the IRB Hall.
And quite right too.
Putting it simply, as one who has long campaigned for Meads's inclusion in the IRB Hall (while sometimes feeling like a lone voice I might add) all i can say is -'BOUT BLOODY TIME TOO!
Stern criticism of the 'elite' International Rugby Board was offered by USA Rugby Chairman Bob Watkins at the Asian Pacific Rugby Congress in Hong Kong, leading to the eventual expansion of the IRB from only eight countries to the over 130 nations today.
Cardiff and Wales
53 internationals for Wales 1967–78
10 internationals for British Isles 1968–74
Gareth Edwards was one of the most widely acclaimed rugby players of all time – a brilliantly versatile halfback and a strong physical competitor who captured the imagination and admiration of players and followers all over the world.
Edwards first came to prominence outside Wales as a teenager on the Cardiff club’s tour of South Africa in 1967, where he played in a number of positions in the backline. Once back in Wales his enormous talents were soon focused on scrumhalf play. He was chosen for his country three months before his 20th birthday and was never dropped until his retirement. Ten years later, with 53 caps, he had set a record for most internationals for Wales, which stood until passed by J.P.R. Williams in 1981. Edwards’s tests were consecutive – both a world record then, and a monumental feat.
In all his internationals, he was in the losing side on no more than 15 occasions. He scored 20 tries in internationals, at the time also a Welsh record, although later equalled by Gerald Davies and later still passed by Ieuan Evans and Gareth Thomas. Edwards’ total of 63 internationals was also, in its time of few tests in any year, the world’s highest for a scrumhalf. He was Wales’s youngest ever international captain (20 years, seven months in the match against Scotland in February 1968).
At the time of his debut for Wales, in the Five Nations match v France in 1967, Edwards was a physical education student at Cardiff Training College. Later, he switched clubs to Cardiff and became a successful businessman. Later still, at the end of his playing days, he was a media commentator and reporter on the game.
A master of the spin-pass, Edwards had all the other attributes of the complete scrumhalf. His kicking was skilful, his running devastating to any of the opposition that could stay near his electric bursts, and his competitiveness was relentless. He dominated many matches simply because of his presence on the field. He was a brilliant opportunist and scorer of tries.
Perhaps the only aspect of his game that did not reach the highest level was as a captain. Many people felt he was inhibited slightly as a leader, with the result that other Welshmen came past him to lead the national XV. He did not resent this, rather it allowed him to return his full concentration to the scrumhalf role. In all, he was captain of his country in 13 tests.
Edwards played superbly in partnership with that other great Welsh personality, Barry John. The two were together as a scrum-outside half combination on 23 occasions, then the world record. Edwards was part of the great era in Welsh rugby that followed almost exactly the dates of his career. He also played superbly for the British Isles in New Zealand in 1971 and in South Africa in 1974. Both those series were won during what were some of British rugby’s greatest days.
He took part in and, indeed, scored the try that is often hailed as one of the greatest ever seen in the game. It was for the Barbarians club against the All Blacks of 1972–73 at Cardiff. The capacity home crowd of 60,000 roared so loudly they distorted forever the television recordings of Edwards diving in at the end of a 90-metre movement.
Edwards possessed a most charming and modest personality, and became in his time one of the most revered characters in Wales – and the rest of the rugby world.
In 1997 he was one of the first players inaugurated into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
Stories abound about Gareth Edwards’ prowess at the game. One story has it that on the day of an England-Wales game at Twickenham, one Welsh supporter could not get a ticket so he waited forlornly outside the ground hoping at least to soak up some of the atmosphere and to hear the result. Eventually he became frustrated at not knowing what was happening in the game, so he called up to some people who were in the ground and asked them what was happening. They happened to be English, so they called back ungraciously that all the Welsh team except Gareth Edwards had been carried off injured. This disturbed the already sad Welsh supporter, but he remained typically optimistic. When a huge roar erupted from the ground a few minutes later, he again called up to the crowd. ‘What’s happened, what’s happened?' he said, 'Gareth scored, has he?’
Such a story is typical of the admiration and affection that existed for one of the greatest of rugby men.
From Wyn Gruffydd - the Welsh broadcaster; 'How Do You Know a girl from Cardiff has had an Orgasm?'