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John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, including The Book of English International Rugby, The Book of International Rugby Records, British Lions, The Five Nations Championship, Rugby's Strangest Matches and Rugby's Greatest Characters. He was a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph for 19 years and is co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has also provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.
Ask John
Two Tests in the same day, the longest tour, England No.10s and South Africa's Highveld record
John Griffiths
September 27, 2010

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask John where renowned rugby historian John Griffiths will answer any rugby-related query you have!

So, if there's something you've always wanted to know about the game we love but didn't know who to ask, or you think you can stump our expert - then get involved by sending us a question.

In this edition John answers questions on countries playing two Tests in the same day, the longest tour, England's fly-halves and South Africa's record on the Highveld.

September 3, 1949 stands alone in the annals of New Zealand rugby as the day that the All Blacks lost two Test matches - against South Africa at Kingsmead in Durban and against Australia at Athletic Park in Wellington. Have any other sides played two internationals on the same day? Simon Anderson, New Zealand

New Zealand's feat in 1949 is unique in Test rugby among the top-tier nations.

The side that came closest to matching this record was Italy in 1980 during their tour of the Pacific. They lost 30-13 to New Zealand Juniors (in a game that Italy recognises as a cap match) in Auckland on July 5 before crossing the dateline to play the Cook Islands on July 6, when they lost 15-6.

One of the dullest Five Nations matches of the late sixties was Ireland's 3-0 win against Wales at Cardiff in 1967. The late JBG Thomas, never the most popular of critics among All Blacks, headed his match report for the Cardiff Western Mail the following Monday: "New Zealand could beat both teams - the same day."

These days we only see hit and run international tours. What was the longest tour ever from pre- or post-air travel? Jon, Australia

The longest rugby tour - both in terms of time on the road and matches played - was that undertaken by the New Zealand Native team of 1888-89.

A party of 26 players (all New Zealanders by birth, including 22 of Maori descent) opened their great expedition with a 5-0 victory over Hawke's Bay in Napier on June 23, 1888. They played nine matches at home before leaving New Zealand in August and took in two games in Melbourne en route for the four Home Unions.

They opened the main leg of their tour with a 4-1 win against Surrey at Richmond on October 3 and undertook an exhausting itinerary, sometimes playing five games in under a week. Between November 20 and 26 for instance they met Carlisle, Hawick, East Cumberland clubs, County Westmoreland and Swinton (winning four of these five games) before playing their first international nearly a week later, beating Ireland in Dublin.

They later lost to both Wales and England but did not meet Scotland. Their 74th and last match in Britain was a 3-1 victory over Southern Counties at Leyton on March 27, 1889.

On the way home they stopped off in Australia to play another 14 matches (winning all of them) and wound up their adventure with eight more matches against New Zealand teams, winning all but their last game, against Auckland on August 24, 1889. Their overall record was: Played 107 Won 78 Drawn 6 Lost 23.

A number of medical doctors have played international rugby. Is there data on how many and for whom? Also medical schools such as St Mary's Hospital in London have been a breeding ground for current and future internationals. JPR Williams and Alun Lewis spring to mind. Can you tell me others from St Mary's? Brian Jones, Australia

The international rugby roll of honour for medics is a long one embracing the entire Test rugby era, from RW "Bulldog" Irvine, who played in the first-ever international (Scotland v England at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, in 1871) to Jamie Roberts (Wales), Felipe Contepomi (Argentina), Jannie du Plessis (South Africa) and Geoff Cross (Scotland) who have all played Test rugby this year.

St Mary's Hospital RFC was founded in 1864 and took part from an early stage in the Hospitals' Cup tournament, rugby's oldest annual cup competition (dating from 1875). The club's golden era was in the 1930s and 1940s when they won the Cup seven successive times, between 1934 and 1945, there being no fifteen-a-side competition from 1940 to 1944 during World War Two.

Even so, the St Mary's medics continued to play top-flight clubs during wartime and their brand of bright, open rugby brought them high praise in January 1945 when they took Coventry's three-year unbeaten record with an 8-3 victory at their home ground in Teddington.

NM "Nim" Hall and Norman Bennett were the architects of their victory and they, together with another Mary's medic, Keith Scott, formed England's midfield when cap matches were resumed in 1947. Hall was a versatile performer who was later capped as a fullback and fly-half, with Scott and Bennett as a centre pairing. Another former member of the club, Tommy Kemp, was England's fly-half in 1948.

Kemp had been the Hospital's captain in their last Cup win before the outbreak of War and like HG "Tuppy" Owen-Smith, the first player capped direct from the club, was an England captain. Owen-Smith was a South African Rhodes scholar who had won Test cricket honours for his native country. A brilliant attacking fullback, he played regularly for England between 1934 and 1937, featuring in two Triple Crown wins and the famous 13-0 defeat of the All Blacks in 1936. Viv Jenkins, his opponent in a couple of Wales-England clashes, rated him the best fullback he saw.

Lewis Cannell, another St Mary's product, played centre for England between 1948 and 1957 before JPR Williams put the medics back on the map with 55 caps for Wales between 1969 and 1981. Scrum-half Alun Lewis, another Welsh medic of the 1970s, was a British & Irish Lion in New Zealand in 1977 but never appeared in a Test or for Wales. One of his contemporaries in the side that won the 1978 Hospitals' Cup was Alistair McKibbin, who was capped for Ireland as a centre the same year.

What is the Springboks' Test record on the Highveld? And what is their Test record at home, away from the Highveld? Anonymous, South Africa

The Highveld covers approximately 400,000 km² (around 30% of South Africa's land area) taking in parts of the Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Limpopo provinces, and most of Gauteng and the Northern Free State.

The Bushveld and Lowveld form the boundaries in the north, northeast and northwest while the Drakensberg Mountains provide natural borders to the east and southeast. At its western edge is the Kalahari Desert with the Great Karoo to the southwest.

The Highveld's Test rugby venues are in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Soweto, Rustenburg, Witbank, Springs and Kimberley (where the early British & Irish teams played three Tests, never losing).

South Africa's Test record at home (1891 to 2010) can be broken down as follows:

At Highveld venues P 105 W 71 D 5 L 29 70% success rate
At Other venues P 108 W 75 D 7 L 26 73% success rate
Overall Home record P 213 W 146 D 12 L 55 71% success rate

…So there would appear to be no significant advantage to the 'Boks when playing at altitude.

* Success rate based on there being two points available for a Test: both awarded for a win; one for a draw and none for a loss.

A recent Sunday newspaper article asserted that only two English fly-halves have ever started more than ten successive Tests? What are the playing sequences over the last fifty years? Graham, England

This remarkable record is held by Rob Andrew and Charlie Hodgson. Adrian Stoop (1910-12) was the first genuine fly-half to notch up six successive starts in that position for England. Then the legendary W J A "Dave" Davies (1920-21 and again in 1922-23), Colin Laird (1928-29), Walter Elliot (1932-34) and Ivor Preece (1949-51) each managed seven consecutive appearances before Martin Regan made nine in a row in 1953 and 1954.

Rob Andrew was the first fly-half to clock up a double-figure run in the No.10 jersey, making eleven appearances from 1988 to 1990, before enjoying two longer runs: 21 from 1990 to 1993 and 15 from 1993 to 1995. Charlie Hodgson made 18 starts on the trot between 2004 and 2006.

The England fly-half sequence during the past 50 years reads:

1960 - Richard Sharp 4.
1961 - Bev Risman 2; Richard Sharp 2; Phil Horrocks-Taylor 1.
1962 - Richard Sharp 3; Phil Horrocks-Taylor 1.
1963 - Richard Sharp 4; Phil Horrocks-Taylor 3.
1964 - Phil Horrocks-Taylor 2; Tom Brophy 3.
1965 - Tom Brophy 2; Mike Weston 2.
1966 - Tom Brophy 3; Mike Weston 1.
1967 - Richard Sharp 1; John Finlan 5.
1968 - John Finlan 2; Mike Weston 2.
1969 - John Finlan 4; Roger Shackleton 1.
1970 - Roger Shackleton 3; John Finlan 1.
1971 - Ian Wright 3; Dick Cowman 3.
1972 - Alan Old 5.
1973 - John Finlan 1; Dick Cowman 2; Martin Cooper 2; Alan Old 2.
1974 - Alan Old 4.
1975 - Alan Old 1; Martin Cooper 2; Neil Bennett 2; Alan Old 1.
1976 - Martin Cooper 2; Alan Old 2; Chris Williams 1.
1977 - Martin Cooper 4.
1978 - Alan Old 1; John Horton 4.
1979 - Neil Bennett 4; Les Cusworth 1.
1980 - John Horton 4.
1981 - John Horton 1; Huw Davies 5.
1982 - Huw Davies 2; Les Cusworth 2.
1983 - Les Cusworth 2; John Horton 2; Les Cusworth 1.
1984 - Les Cusworth 4; John Horton 2; Stuart Barnes 1.
1985 - Rob Andrew 5; Stuart Barnes 2.
1986 - Rob Andrew 4.
1987 - Rob Andrew 3; Peter Williams 3; Rob Andrew 1; Peter Williams 1.
1988 - Les Cusworth 2; Rob Andrew 5; Stuart Barnes 1; Rob Andrew 1.
1989 - Rob Andrew 6
1990 - Rob Andrew 4; David Pears 2; Rob Andrew 1.
1991 - Rob Andrew 12.
1992 - Rob Andrew 6.
1993 - Rob Andrew 2; Stuart Barnes 2; Rob Andrew 1.
1994 - Rob Andrew 8.
1995 - Rob Andrew 6; Mike Catt 1; Rob Andrew 3; Mike Catt 1; Paul Grayson 1.
1996 - Paul Grayson 4; Mike Catt 2.
1997 - Paul Grayson 3; Mike Catt 2; Mark Mapletoft 1; Mike Catt 4; Paul Grayson 1.
1998 - Paul Grayson 4; Jonny Wilkinson 2; Josh Lewsey 2; Paul Grayson 3; Mike Catt 1.
1999 - Mike Catt 1; Paul Grayson 1; Mike Catt 2; Jonny Wilkinson 5; Paul Grayson 1; Jonny Wilkinson 1; Paul Grayson 1.
2000 - Jonny Wilkinson 5; Austin Healey 1; Jonny Wilkinson 4.
2001 - Jonny Wilkinson 4; Dave Walder 3; Jonny Wilkinson 2; Charlie Hodgson 1; Jonny Wilkinson 1.
2002 - Jonny Wilkinson 5; Charlie Hodgson 1; Jonny Wilkinson 3.
2003 - Jonny Wilkinson 7; Alex King 1; Paul Grayson 1; Jonny Wilkinson 4; Paul Grayson 1; Jonny Wilkinson 3.
2004 - Paul Grayson 3; Olly Barkley 2; Charlie Hodgson 6.
2005 - Charlie Hodgson 8.
2006 - Charlie Hodgson 4; Andy Goode 1; Olly Barkley 1; Andy Goode 1; Charlie Hodgson 3; Andy Goode 1.
2007 - Jonny Wilkinson 3; Toby Flood 2; Jonny Wilkinson 3; Olly Barkley 1; Jonny Wilkinson 1; Olly Barkley 1; Mike Catt 1; Jonny Wilkinson 5.
2008 - Jonny Wilkinson 4; Danny Cipriani 1; Charlie Hodgson 1; Toby Flood 1; Danny Cipriani 3; Toby Flood 1.
2009 - Andy Goode 2; Toby Flood 3; Andy Goode 2; Jonny Wilkinson 3.
2010 - Jonny Wilkinson 4; Toby Flood 3.

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