Uncapped subs, players capped by Australia and New Zealand and French fly-halves
February 15, 2010
Warren Gatland warmed the bench for 20 consecutive All Black Tests © Getty Images
Most points for Ireland against Wales, the Fagan Brothers and four wins in a year over the All Blacks
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
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.
(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.
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.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton