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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
Uncapped subs, players capped by Australia and New Zealand and French fly-halves
John Griffiths
February 15, 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 uncapped subs, players capped by Australia and New Zealand French fly-halves.

I believe that Llanelli hooker Roy Thomas sat on the bench for Wales well over 20 times in the 1970s without winning a Test cap. Does he hold the record for the most occasions a player has been a replacement without ever having had the accolade of an appearance in Test match rugby? If he does not hold the record, which unfortunate individual does? Hywel Griffiths, Wales

This has been a difficult record to track down because replacements were not always announced in the press unless called in to the starting XV or used off the bench.

In the past the Welsh selectors used to have several categories of back up: reserves; travelling reserves and replacements. When replacements were first used in the Five Nations, in 1969, Wales went to Scotland with six travelling reserves, but on the morning of the match had to name a subset of four as official replacements. The hooker and scrum-half were naturally nominated for bench duty.

Norman Gale, Roy Thomas's predecessor as Llanelli's hooker, was the first Welsh hooker to sit on the bench, shadowing Jeff Young at Murrayfield. Vic Perrins (Newport). Norman Rees (Neath) and Young shared the duties before Thomas broke into the Welsh match-day squad.

It is often stated that Roy was a Welsh reserve more than 20 times but, as far as research allows, he appears to have benched for Wales only 16 times, as follows:

1972 England, Scotland, France; 1974 Scotland, Ireland, France, England; 1975 France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia; 1976 England, Scotland, Ireland, France

He understudied Jeff Young in 1972 and Bobby Windsor thereafter. From 1977 onwards the hooking bench duties for Wales were covered by Mike Watkins, Alan Phillips and (later on) Billy James. Windsor won 28 successive Test caps between 1973 and 1979, never needing replacement.

Unless any reader knows better, research indicates that the record number of bench nominations for a player who NEVER gained any full Test playing time appears to belong to the current Welsh coach, Warren Gatland, who shadowed Sean Fitzpatrick for 20 consecutive New Zealand Tests between 1988 and 1991. Gatland lost his bench place to Graham Dowd after New Zealand were beaten in Sydney shortly before the 1991 Rugby World Cup. Dowd (no relation to Craig) later won a cap as a replacement prop against Ireland in 1992.

I understand that Australia's Eddie Stapleton, a 1950s Wallaby, played against the All Blacks in a Test but played for them (uncapped obviously) in a country match when they were short of numbers. I can't imagine that there would be many in that boat. Weston Ryan, Australia

Eddie Stapleton was a goal-kicking wing who played for Australia in 16 Tests between 1951 and 1958, scoring six three-point tries, two conversions and a penalty goal (25 points). Nine of his Test appearances were against New Zealand.

When New Zealand set off for their tour of South Africa in 1960, they stopped-over in Sydney and opposed first Queensland and then New South Wales in separate matches played the same afternoon. With two of their thirty-strong party unfit, the All Blacks borrowed two Australians, Stapleton and Maurice Graham (an uncapped New South Wales fullback), for the match against Queensland. The All Blacks won 32-3 with Stapleton scoring a try.

Three players, however, trumped even Stapleton's achievement and played Test rugby for both Australia and New Zealand:

Des Connor - (Aus)1958 to 1959, (NZ)1961 to 1964
Evan Jessep - (Aus)1934, (NZ)1931 to 1932
Owen Stephens - (Aus) 1973 to 1974, (NZ) 1968 There has been much in the media recently about the fickleness of the French selectors with regard to the No.10 position in their side. Could you list the runs of appearances made by French fly-halves of the last fifty years? Anon

France opened their 1960 Five Nations campaign at Murrayfield with Roger Martine as their #10. The list of fly-halves who have started Tests for France since then with their run of successive appearances is as follows:

1960 Roger Martine 2; Pierre Albaladejo 4; Pierre Dizabo 3.
1961 Pierre Albaladejo 4; Roger Martine 1; Albaladejo 3; Guy Camberabero 1; Albaladejo 1; Jacky Bouquet 1.
1962 Pierre Albaladejo 4; Serge Plantey 1; Guy Camberabero 1.
1963 Pierre Albaladejo 5; Claude Lacaze 1.
1964 Pierre Albaladejo 2; Jean-Claude Hiquet 1; Albaladejo 5; Guy Camberabero 1.
1965 Jean Capdouze 3; Jean Gachassin 3.
1966 Jean-Claude Roques 2; Jean Gachassin 2; Roques 2.
1967 Jean Gachassin 1; Guy Camberabero 6; Jean-Louis Dehez 1; Camberabero 2; Gachassin 1; Jo Maso 1.
1968 Guy Camberabero 1; Jean Gachassin 1; Camberabero 2; Claude Lacaze 2; Christian Boujet 1; Jo Maso 2; Boujet 1; Lucien Paries 2.
1969 Jean Gachassin 2; Claude Lacaze 1; Jo Maso 1; Jean-Louis Dehez 1.
1970 Lucien Paries 3; Jean-Louis Berot 2.
1971 Jean-Louis Berot 9.
1972 Jean-Louis Berot 4; Alain Marot 1; Berot 1; Henri Cabrol 1; Jean-Pierre Romeu 1.
1973 Jean-Pierre Romeu 5; Henri Cabrol 1; Romeu 1.
1974 Jean-Louis Berot 1; Jean-Pierre Romeu 7; Henri Cabrol 1.
1975 Jean-Pierre Romeu 1; Lucien Paries 3; Jean-Pierre Pesteil 1; Romeu 4.
1976 Jean-Pierre Romeu 5; Alain Marot 1; Jean-Pierre Pesteil 2.
1977 Jean-Pierre Romeu 9.
1978 Bernard Vivies 4; Alain Caussade 1.
1979 Alain Caussade 3; Roger Aguerre 1; Caussade 3.
1980 Alain Caussade 3; Pierre Pedeutour 1; Bernard Vivies 2.
1981 Bernard Vivies 1; Guy Laporte 3; Vivies 1; Marc Sallefranque 1; Laporte 3.
1982 Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 4; Didier Camberabero 3.
1983 Didier Camberabero 1; Christian Delage 2; Camberabero1; Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 3.
1984 Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 7.
1985 Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 6.
1986 Guy Laporte 6; Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 5; Franck Mesnel 1
1987 Franck Mesnel 5; Guy Laporte 1; Mesnel 1; Laporte 1; Mesnel 3.
1988 Franck Mesnel 1; Jean-Patrick Lescarboura 1; Didier Camberabero 1; Lescarboura 1; Mesnel 5.
1989 Franck Mesnel 4; Philippe Rougé-Thomas 2; Didier Camberabero 2; Thierry Lacroix 1.
1990 Didier Camberabero 1; Franck Mesnel 1; Cambebrabero 2; Jean-Patrick Lescarboura1; Camberabero 5.
1991 Didier Camberabero 11; Thierry Lacroix 1.
1992 Alain Penaud 9; Laurent Mazas 1.
1993 Didier Camberabero 3; Franck Mesnel 1; Alain Penaud 6.
1994 Alain Penaud 3; Thierry Lacroix 1; Christophe Deylaud 3; Yann Delaigue 1.
1995 Christophe Deylaud 3; Yann Delaigue 4; Deylaud 3; Franck Mesnel 1; Deylaud 1; Thomas Castaignède 1; Deylaud 1; Alain Penaud 2.
1996 Thierry Lacroix 2; Thomas Castaignède 2; Alain Penaud 4; Laurent Mazas 1; Christophe Lamaison 1.
1997 Alain Penaud 1; Christophe Lamaison 1; Penaud 1; David Aucagne 2; Penaud 1; Aucagne 1; Penaud 1; Thierry Lacroix 5.
1998 Thomas Castaignède 7; David Aucagne 2.
1999 Thomas Castaignède 6; Gerald Merceron 1; Ugo Mola 1; Castaignède 2; Christophe Lamaison 5.
2000 Christophe Lamaison 1; Thomas Castaignède 1; Gerald Merceron 2; Alain Penaud 1; Merceron 1; Lamaison 3.
2001 Christophe Lamaison 3; Gerald Merceron 4; David Skrela 1; Francois Gelez 1; Frederic Michalak 1; Merceron1.
2002 Gerald Merceron 6; Francois Gelez 1; Merceron 1; Gelez 2; Merceron 1.
2003 Gerald Merceron 1; Francois Gelez 2; Frederic Michalak 2; Yann Delaigue 2; Michalak 3; Merceron 1; Michalak 3; Merceron 1; Michalak 2; Merceron 1.
2004 Frederic Michalak 1; Julien Peyrelongue 1; Michalak 3; Alexandre Péclier 2; Michalak 2; Peyrelongue 1.
2005 Yann Delaigue 5; Frederic Michalak 5; Delaigue 1; Michalak1.
2006 Frederic Michalak 5; Thomas Castaignède 1; Damien Traille 4.
2007 David Skrela 4; Lionel Beauxis 1; Benjamin Boyet 2; Skrela 1; Frederic Michalak 1; Beauxis 1; Skrela 1; Michalak 2; Beauxis 3; Michalak 1.
2008 Francois Trinh-Duc 1; David Skrela 1; Trinh-Duc 2; Skrela 1; Benjamin Boyet 1; Trinh-Duc 1; Skrela 3.
2009 Lionel Beauxis 2; Benoit Baby 1; Francois Trinh-Duc 4; Beauxis 1; Trinh-Duc 3.
2010: Francois Trinh-Duc (2) … up to and including this season's game against Ireland.

(NB: Appearances as fly-half off the bench omitted)

Do you not think one of the reasons the ruck has disappeared, apart from the first player being allowed to pick the ball up if on his feet, is actually that the refs are extremely lax about penalising people for going to ground after they arrive at the ruck. Andrew Warren, England

Your question arrived just before Law 15.4 (relating to the tackler when the ball carrier is brought to the ground) was reinforced to referees and players on the eve of the Six Nations.

That Law states:

a) When a player tackles an opponent and they both go to ground, the tackler must immediately release the tackled player. Sanction: penalty kick.
b) The tackler must immediately get up or move away from the tackled player and from the ball at once. Sanction: penalty kick.
c) The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then may play the ball from any direction. Sanction: penalty kick.

Strict adherence to this Law gives the tackled player time to lay the ball back at arm's length and allow supporting forwards to drive over it and restore much-needed momentum to rucking - a quality that was noticeably absent for much of the autumn.

In 1980, an England-Wales XV played a Scotland-Ireland XV. Is it possible to have the teams for that game, plus result & scorers? Bruce Sheekey, Australia

The match was played on 29th November, 1980, as part of the Welsh Rugby Union's centenary season celebrations. It was the ninth (and last) Four-Nations match, the English & Welsh beating the Scottish & Irish 37-33.

England & Wales: J P R Williams; J Carleton, C R Woodward, S P Fenwick (capt), M A C Slemen; W G Davies, T D Holmes; C Williams, P J Wheeler, G Price, W B Beaumont, M J Colclough, M Rafter, G P Williams, D L Quinnell

Scorers Tries: Carleton (2), G P Williams (2), Woodward, Beaumont, Davies Conversions: Davies (3) Drop-goal: Woodward

Scotland & Ireland: A R Irvine (capt); D I Johnston, J M Renwick, D G Irwin, B H Hay; A J P Ward, J C Robbie; P A Orr, C T Deans, M P Fitzpatrick, A J Tomes, D E Spring, J F Slattery, J R Beattie, J B O'Driscoll Replacement: K W Robertson for Irvine (75 mins)

Scorers Tries: Irwin, Johnston, Beattie, Irvine, Ward Conversions: Ward (4), Irvine Penalty Goal: Ward

A relative played for Ulster against the Second Springboks (1912-13). Do you have any details of that match? Anon

The match was played on 4th December, 1912, at Balmoral Showgrounds, Belfast.

Ulster 0, South Africans 19

Ulster: W E Crawford; R Watson, A L Stewart, A L Gregg, W Bennett; D C Campbell, J A Shaw; S B B Campbell, H Moore, R D Patterson, W Tyrrell, G McConnell, W V Edwards, J Taylor, J E Finlay

South Africans: P G Morkel; A de la R van der Hoff, G M Wrentmore, W A Krige, W J Mills; J D McCulloch, J H Immelman; E H Shum, S N Cronje, E T Delaney, L H Louw, J A J Francis, J S Braine, W A Millar (captain), J D Luyt

Scorers Tries: Van der Hoff (3), Krige, Mills Conversions: G Morkel (2) Referee: Mr J J Coffey (IRFU)

The Springboks led 14-0 at half-time. More than half the Ulster side were (or became) Irish international players.

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