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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
Inexperienced England captains, RWC representation and Clive Shell
John Griffiths
January 30, 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.

Who were England's least experienced (by fewest caps) Test captains? Graham, England

Four England Test captains led on their international debuts.

Frederick Stokes was captain in their first-ever international when clearly every member of the side was a new cap (against Scotland in 1871). Joe Mycock led England against Wales at Cardiff in 1947 when he was among 14 new caps in their first Test side for eight years, World War two having interrupted the sequence of Test rugby.

Fred Alderson (against Wales in 1891) and Nigel Melville (against Austraia in 1984) were the other Englishmen to lead on their Test debuts.

Alderson and Mycock led winning sides.

There have been three previous England Test captains appointed after just one Test:
John Daniell v Ireland 1900
D'Oyly Lyon v Australia 1909
Keith Scott v Australia 1948

Of these seven Stokes was only 20 and Daniell 21 when they first led England. Will Carling, England's youngest captain since 1931, was 22 and winning his eighth cap when he skippered the side against Australia at Twickenham in 1988.

Cardiff and Ulster qualified as the best runners-up for this year's Heineken Cup knockout stages. What are the lowest and highest points that have allowed teams to progress under the current pool format? David Martin, England

The bonus points system has applied to the six pool stages since the 2003-04 season. Those qualifying as runners-up, with their pool points, have been as follows:
24 - Gloucester (2004)
23 - Sale (2006)
23 - Munster (2007)
22 - Leinster (2006)
22 - Edinburgh (2004)
22 - Perpignan (2008)
22 - Ulster (2011)
22 - Leicester (2011)
21 - Northampton (2005)
21 - Ospreys (2008)
21 - Cardiff (2012)
20 - Northampton (2007)
20 - Toulouse (2009)
20 - Ospreys (2009)
20 - Ospreys (2010)
20 - Ulster (2012)
19 - Leicester (2005)
19 - Northampton (2010)

How many times have all of the Five Nations produced a quarter-finalist for the Heineken Cup? RS, Scotland

Edinburgh's recent pool win at Murrayfield meant that the four Home Unions and France will have qualifiers for this year's tournament for only the second time. Edinburgh became the first Scottish team in the competition's history to head a pool.

The only previous Scottish qualifiers were also Edinburgh, as pool runners-up to Toulouse in 2003-04. That was the only other occasion when all of the Five Nations were represented in the knockout stages.

Edinburgh also had to face Toulouse in the quarters that year, losing 36-10 at Le Stadium, Llanelli Scarlets lost 27-10 to Biarritz at Stradey Park, Munster beat Stade Français 37-32 at Thomond Park and in the all-English affair at Wycombe, Wasps (the eventual champions) beat Gloucester 34-3.

Which clubs did Welsh scrum-half Clive Shell who passed away recently appear for? Paul Morgan, Wales

Clive Shell, whose death was reported on January 6 aged 64, won his only Welsh cap as an injury-time replacement for Gareth Edwards against Australia at Cardiff in 1973.

A loyal clubman, he played all his senior rugby for Aberavon, captaining the Wizards from 1976 to 1979 and appearing in the sides which were runners-up to Llanelli in the Welsh Cup Finals of both 1974 and 1975.

In the autumn of 1973 he partnered Phil Bennett when the Welsh XV defeated Japan 62-14 at Cardiff Arms Park in a non-cap match. He played two other non-cap matches against Japan on the 1975 tour to the Far East, replacing Gareth Edwards in the first of the two internationals and playing in the second when Edwards had to stand down owing to a hamstring injury.

Shell played his junior rugby with Pyle RFC and made his Barbarians debut in the 1974 Moseley Centenary match.

Which clubs/regions/provinces had the best representation at the Rugby World Cup? David Thomson, New Zealand

There were ten clubs with ten or more original squad members among the 20 sides that contested the pool stages of the recent tournament.

Clermont-Auvergne topped the list with 16. The leading suppliers were as follows:
16 - Clermont-Auvergne
15 - Leinster
14 - VVA - Podmoskovye
12 - Treviso
12 - Crusaders
11 - Montpellier
11 - Leicester
10 - Queensland
10 - Scarlets
10 - Ospreys

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