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John Griffiths | Columnist Index
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
English players in Wales, Hugo Porta's final bow and inexperienced England squads
John Griffiths
January 16, 2012

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 Griffiths answers questions on English players in Wales, Hugo Porta's final bow and inexperienced England squads.

With Ben Morgan opting for England, who was the last player to play for England while playing for a Welsh team? All I can think of is John Scott and Richard Cardus at Cardiff. Martin Evans, Wales

Between 1975 and 1986 England selected seven players while they were appearing for Welsh clubs: Barry Nelmes (Cardiff), Mark Keyworth (Swansea), Colin Smart (Newport), Tony Swift (Swansea), Neil Bennett (London Welsh), John Scott (Cardiff) and Maurice Colclough (Swansea). Several England Test sides of the period included three players from Welsh clubs.

John Scott was originally selected from Rosslyn Park in the 1978 Five Nations before joining Cardiff later the same year. He was still a Cardiff player when he captained England in 1983 and 1984.

Bennett (Bedford) and Colclough (Angouleme & Wasps) were also capped from other clubs before receiving England calls from Welsh sides. Colclough was the last Englishman to be capped from a Welsh club (in 1986).

Keyworth, Nelmes, Smart and Swift won all of their England caps from Welsh clubs. Smart had actually received an invitation to play for a Welsh XV against New Zealand in November 1974. Originally from Tonbridge in Kent, he had trained as a teacher at Cardiff College of Education before joining Newport while teaching in the area, but politely declined the invitation from the Welsh selectors. His England senior call came for the tour to Australia in 1975, when he made his Test debut in Sydney.

If selected, Ben Morgan will become the first player capped by England from Llanelli/Scarlets, though back in 1906 George Dobbs turned out for the club having played twice for England (while at Plymouth Albion) earlier the same year.

The 1921 England Grand Slam team contained four Welshmen. Reg Edwards and Ernie Hammett were Newport players, Tom Woods was a Pontypool regular and their skipper was W J A "Dave" Davies, who was born in Pembroke Dock but never played any rugby for a Welsh club.

After guiding his side to victory over Wales at Twickenham, Davies told a curious Western Mail reporter: "I don't wish to stir up any controversy but the facts are quite simple. All my rugby was learnt in England, and the first club I played for was an English club. Until I left Wales I knew nothing about rugby. It was said [in 1912] that I was going to be picked for both the English and Welsh trial. I made it quite clear at once that if I was selected I would play for England."

The first England player capped direct from a Welsh club was George Vickery of Aberavon (in 1905). His son, Walter, played for Wales 33 years later. Stanley Williams played fullback for England in 1911 while with Newport and the club also supplied Jack Hancock at lock for the 1955 England side.

Richard Cardus was capped twice by England in 1979 from the Roundhay club, moving to Cardiff in the 1980s. Several other England Test players have similarly turned out for Welsh clubs without adding to their cap hauls.

Stuart Lancaster's squad has been referred to as the least experienced England Championship squad since 1963. What were the details of that group from nearly fifty years ago? David Martin, England

It's the combination of age, Test inexperience and circumstances that make Lancaster's squad resemble the England Five Nations class of 1963.

The 1962 British & Irish Lions tour, like the recent Rugby World Cup, was a watershed event that marked the end of the international road for the very experienced England captain, Dickie Jeeps. Peter Robbins and John Currie, two others who had been key members in the side's success since 1956 (a Grand Slam, two Triple Crowns and three Championship titles between 1956 and 1962), had also played their last England matches in 1962.

For the trip to Cardiff in January 1963 England had seven new caps: Simon Clarke, Nick Drake-Lee, John Thorne, Bev Dovey, Mike Davis, John Owen and Derek Manley. They recalled Brian Wightman at No.8, whose only previous cap had been in 1959.

John Willcox - Age 26; Caps 7
Peter Jackson - 32; 16
Malcolm Phillips - 26; 13
Mike Weston - 24; 12
Jim Roberts - 29; 13
Richard Sharp - 24; 9 (capt)
Simon Clarke - 21; 0
Nick Drake-Lee -22; 0
John Thorne - 28; 0
Bev Dovey - 23; 0
John Owen - 23; 0
Mike Davis - 21; 0
Derek Manley - 29; 0
Brian Wightman - 25; 1
Budge Rogers - 22; 6

The average age of that fifteen was 25 (same as Lancaster's 32-strong squad) and the average number of caps was five (admittedly at a time when fewer Tests took place). Lancaster's squad averages 13 caps.

Wing Peter Jackson was the only 30-something in that 1963 side. They went to Cardiff and won 13-6, drew 0-0 in Dublin and at Twickenham beat France and Scotland (Richard Sharp's famous try) to take the Five Nations title unbeaten.

Can you tell me which clubs held the records for highest score and biggest winning margin against Leicester in the Heineken Cup before their recent Ulster defeat? Graham, United Kingdom

Ulster's recent 41-7 win at Ravenhill set new marks for both records. Leicester's previous record margin of defeat was 33-0 on the same ground against Ulster in the 2003-04 pool stage, a defeat that marked the beginning of the end for coach Dean Richards. Clermont Auvergne held the previous record for the highest Heineken Cup score against Leicester. They beat the Tigers 40-30 two seasons ago.

Owen Farrell was recently named in an England senior squad that his famous father will assist as a coach. What precedents have there been for selectors picking their own kith and kin at Test level? Stephen Williams, Wales

The late Jeff Young's uncle (H C "Jack" Young) was one of the Welsh Big Five (and one-time chairman of selectors) when Jeff was playing hooker in the successful Welsh sides of the 1970s. Jeff used to get ribbed by supporters of other Welsh hookers (Llanelli fans promoting Norman Gale and Newport followers Vic Perrins) about only being in the Welsh side because of "Uncle Jack."

The Cardiff prop Kingsley Jones was a regular in the Welsh packs between 1960 and 1963 when his uncle, Cliff Jones, was a member of the Big Five. Noel Murphy was Ireland's team manager in the 1990s when his son Kenny Murphy was playing fullback. They certainly overlapped in 1992 when Ireland toured New Zealand under Noel's management and Kenny played in one of the Tests. Noel served two spells on the Irish Big Five - 1975-80 (before) and 1992-95 (after) his son's career on the Ireland team.

Hugo Porta played for Argentina in a game against a World XV in 1999 in honour for his services to Argentine rugby. My question is: did this latter game count as a Test match? If this match is officially recognised as a Test, it would make Hugo Porta the player with the longest Test career. Frank leBlande, Switzerland

The match took place on April 17, 1999 at the Buenos Aires Cricket and Rugby Club but it is not regarded as an official Argentina Test. Porta, then aged nearly 48, kicked off and did take part in the game, but was replaced early on. Argentina, who used eight replacements, won 50-31.

Argentina: Diego Albanese; Octavio Bartolucci, Eduardo Simone, Jose Orengo, Ignacio Corleto; Hugo Porta, Agustín Pichot; Martín Scelzo, Mario Ledesma, Fernando Diaz, Alejandro Allub, Pedro Sporleder (captain), Rolando Martin, Pablo Camerlinckx, Miguel Ruiz

Replacements used: Juan Fernández Miranda, Gonzalo Quesada, Jose Cilley, Nicolás Fernandez Miranda, Raul Perez, Roberto Travaglini, Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, Jose Santamarina

World XV: Luis Criscuolo; Karl Te Nana, Barrie-Jon Mather, Jamie Mayer, Alvar Enciso; Craig Chalmers, Ian Sanders; Rod Snow, Gordon Bulloch, Peter Clohessy, Al Charron, Mark Rowley, Alberto Malo, Laurent Cabannes (captain), Dallas Seymour

Replacements used: Bernardo Garcia, Nicolas Aranciba, Neil McCarthy, Fernando Paullier, Francisco de los Santos, Alun Carter, Alfonso Escobar

Referee: Ed Morrison

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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