December 31 down the years
Happy New Year, Sarge... and can I have Saturday off?
Paul Dodge was unveiled as England captain in the absence of the perennially injured Nigel Melville - Dodge himself was only just returning from a broken leg. He was also handed a young side for the weekend's game against Romania; there were five uncapped players in the squad. One of the new boys was 27-year-old policeman Wade Dooley who was told the news as he started his shift. "This has come right out of the blue. I have my sergeant sitting alongside me and will have to ask him if I can have the time off."
A spectator ran onto the ground at half-time in the match between the Springboks and Western Counties in Bristol and scattered nails ands tintacks over the pitch as an anti-apartheid protest. Play was delayed as policeman and players got down on their hands and knees to pick them off. The match ended in a 3-3 draw.
England & Wales defeated Scotland & Ireland 18-15 in a special Four Countries match in Dublin, staged to mark the opening of the Irish Rugby Union's new two-tier stand at Lansdowne Road.
The crippling debt caused by the Millennium Stadium (around £50 million) led to Wales scrapping their A team with an admission that decisions were being taken by the board's bankers as much as the executive. At the same time Ireland were toying with binning Connacht and Scotland with their A team, also to save funds.
Ireland became the first Home Union to award cap status for a Test against Italy. The Azzurri were beaten 31-15 at Lansdowne Road with Keith Crossan and skipper Philip Matthews each scoring two tries for the Irish.
Not so much unexpected as unbelievable behaviour from Ireland's selectors who called up Able Seaman Kevan Lavelle of HMS Ark Royal as a wing forward in the Test trial. Lavell had never played a club game in Ireland, had been seen only once by selectors in an Ireland Under-23 match, and had just been dropped by Devon. Nor had he even made the Navy XV. He never got the senior call-up but went on to play for London Irish and was listed in the Daily Telegraph as one of the first "round the corner" place kickers.
Schoolboy Terry Price made his mark in senior rugby by appearing for Llanelli against the All Blacks. Playing on the wing he accidentally broke Waka Nathan's jaw in a goal-line tackle, but the Scarlets were well beaten 22-8.
Legendary flanker and French captain Jean-Pierre Rives was born in Toulouse.
Fly-half Phil Hawthorne proved his fitness for the Wallabies ahead of their England Test by returning from injury to score 15 points in the tourists' 27-6 win against the Southern Counties at Iffley Road.
Jackie Kyle was awarded the OBE at the end of a year in which he retired as the most capped international player of all time … then. His 46 appearances for Ireland would seem like a short career now.
1951The touring Springboks arrived in Eastbourne for a four-day mid-tour break over the New Year. They were possibly in the best place as winter weather severely disrupted the New Year fixtures.