Respect your elders
July 1, 2009
British & Irish Lions lock Simon Shaw made his debut aged 35 on Saturday © Getty Images
Past it, long in the tooth, put out to grass. Test rugby for the over 30s is a potential minefield of jibes and poor clichés, but several players have made late strides in to the Test arena and survived.
While their younger colleagues fly around the field, the elder statesmen (even we're at it now) are expected to provide a levelling influence and relish the tougher aspects of the game. Here we take a look back at some men who left it late to make their mark at the top level, but took some shifting once they had arrived.
Simon Shaw - South Africa v British & Irish Lions, 2009 - aged 35
Granite-faced lock Shaw made his England debut in 1996 and was selected for his first Lions tour in 1997. A powerful and committed campaigner, the 6'8'' Shaw had to wait until several months shy of his 36th birthday to get his first taste of a Test match for the British & Irish Lions.
Running out in the second Test at Pretoria with the Lions trailing the series 1-0, Shaw was almost 15 years older than his team-mate Luke Fitzgerald. The Wasps man was a towering presence however, his tackling and defence coupled with a huge effort in shoring up the Lions' scrum. They lost the Test, Shaw was moved to tears. Still, as personal efforts go it was worth the wait.
Davy Tweed - Ireland v France, 1995 - aged 35
Ballymena lock Davy Tweed took to the field in Ireland colours at Lansdowne Road for the first time in 1995, aged 35. The Antrim-born Tweed endured a mixed reception however, being jeered by sections of the crowd due to his hard-line unionist politics.
Tweed didn't seem to mind, in fact he didn't really seem to put much stock in making his debut at all. Reputedly the lock was quoted as saying that he "played 30 times for my country [Ulster] and once for Ireland" following the game. He made three further appearances for Ireland in 1995, including a start against Japan at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
Diego Ormaechea - Uruguay v Spain, 1999 - aged 40
Uruguayan skipper Diego Ormaechea was already an experienced international, having made his international debut in 1979, when he led his side out for their first ever game at the Rugby World Cup in 1999. Their opponents that day were Spain, and Ormaechea became the oldest man to play at the World Cup.
The man who is lauded as the greatest player to originate from Uruguay crossed for a try in their 27-15 victory, retiring after the tournament and returning to his day job as a vet for racing horses before taking the reins as coach for the Uruguay side at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Paul Ackford - England v Australia, 1988 - aged 30
England lock Ackford made his debut against Australia in 1988, having impressed while playing for the Police, with whom he was an inspector. After moving to Harlequins, Ackford enjoyed a meteoric rise despite coming to the international party late - within three years of his debut he had played all three Tests on the British & Irish Lions' victorious tour of Australia in 1989 and won the Grand Slam with England in 1991.
Ackford formed a gritty and determined partnership in the England and Lions second-rows with Wade Dooley, also a police officer.
Charlie Faulkner - France v Wales, 1975 - aged 34
A member of the famous Pontypool front-row, Charlie Faulkner was the oldest member of one of the most famous trios from the history of Welsh rugby alongside fellow prop Graham Price and hooker Bobby Windsor. The often forgotten heartbeat of the great Welsh sides of the 1970s, the 'Viet Gwent' were an abrasive and brilliant presence.
Faulkner made his Wales debut against France in 1975 alongside Price, ten years his junior, who scored a famous length of the field try in the game. Faulkner may have joined the Wales set-up late in his career, but he still had plenty of time to make an influence, winning two Grand Slams, a Triple Crown and Championship in his five Five Nations campaigns.
Johan le Roux - South Africa v England, 1994 - aged 33
Springbok prop Johan le Roux made his international debut aged 33 against England at Newlands in Cape Town in 1994, heading to New Zealand with the squad a month later for a Test series.
The Boks lost the first Test 22-14 at Carisbrook before heading to Wellington for the second Test, where Le Roux decided that he would be taking a souvenir home even if the Boks failed to win the series. Unfortunately, the souvenir he had in mind was All Black skipper Sean Fitzpatrick's ear. Le Roux chomped down on the unfortunate hooker during a scrum, leaving the experienced Fitzpatrick bleeding and confused. Le Roux was banned from the game for 18 months, ending his international career almost as soon as it started.
And finally…Sadayoshi Morita of Japan.
While Morita never graduated beyond the realms of club rugby in Japan, he was handed the title of world's oldest player in 2005. His age? 90.
Morita took up rugby in 1934 and aside from several years when he was conscripted in to the Japanese army he has been playing ever since. "It is extraordinary tough for 90-year old guy to run at top speed. But you must get over it to enjoy playing rugby. If it weren't for the sprints in this game, I would be able to play rugby until I was 110 years old," he said in 2005.
Click Here to see Morita in action.
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