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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
Eight month tours and Aberavon
John Griffiths
June 6, 2012
France's Morgan Parra chips over three points, Scotland v France, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, February 26, 2012
Morgan Parra top-scored for France during the 2012 Six Nations in a campaign where none of Les Bleus' forwards contributed to the scoreboard © Getty Images
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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 looks at Sevens line-ups, Aberavon's last three-point try, the longest British tours, Tonga's exploits in Australia and French profligacy.

Can you tell me the jersey numbering and the positions used in rugby sevens for the starting team? Mario, Italy

The seven comprises a front-row, a scrum-half and three outside backs.

In sevens tournaments it is customary for players to wear squad numbers - there is no set numbering for the team that starts a seven-a-side match, though usually the squad numbering begins with the forwards.

Having a bit of an argument over who scored Aberavon's last three-point try. I have found that it was David Condon in a Snelling 7 a side game, but others have said it was Ian Hall in 15 a side and another has said it was Steve Roper. Can you help? Kim Banham, Canada

I think you're right about David Condon and the sevens context, but it was not in the Snelling tournament. The value of the try was raised from three points to four at the start of the 1971-72 northern hemisphere season.

The Snelling Sevens and the WRU National Sevens were traditionally staged a week apart at the end of each season until 1970 when, at the AGM of the WRU the decision was taken to put their National Sevens tournament back four months to the beginning of the next season.

The WRU Sevens that year was therefore staged at the National Ground, Cardiff Arms Park, on Saturday August 28, 1971 and played under the 1970-71 Laws, with tries still counting for three points. Aberavon reached the Final where they were beaten 23-8 by Llanelli. For the Wizards Condon, a forward, scored both of their tries, Mike Nicholas converting one.

For interest the teams in that Final were as follows:

Aberavon: D Curling, D Sheey, I Hall (captain), C Shell; D Condon, M Nicholas, C Jones

Llanelli: A Hill, R Bergiers, P Bennett (captain), J Thomas; H Jenkins, A Reynolds, R Mathias

Andy Hill (two), Hefin Jenkins, John Thomas and Roy Mathias scored tries, Phil Bennett converting four.

Which was the longest British/Irish international tour of all time? Steve John, Wales

The first British rugby tourists convened in London on March 8 1888 and headed to Gravesend where they boarded the RMS Kaikoura bound for Australia via Liverpool.

They reached Hobart on April 14 and after a short stay, embarked five days later for Dunedin and reached Port Chalmers on the April 22, where they were met by the cricketers Arthur Shrewsbury, James Lillywhite (tour organisers/managers) and "Drewy" Stoddart (player), who had been touring Australia earlier.

Between April 28 and May 24 the British rugby tourists played nine matches, winning six, drawing one and losing twice (v Taranaki and v Auckland). On the May 25, the day after the Auckland defeat, they boarded the Zealandia for Sydney and the Australian leg of the tour.

There they played 16 rugby matches between June and September, winning 14 and drawing two. They also played 19 matches under Aussie Rules before arriving back at Auckland on September 5 for another ten matches between September 8 and October 3 (winning seven and drawing three). The team sailed on the RMS Kaikoura from Wellington the day after their last match and arrived back in England on November 11, 1888, having been away for eight months.

Overall (rugby only) tour record: P 35 W 27 D 6 L2

Could you provide the statistical info for the Tongan Team of 1973 - how many games they won and names of team members? Kris Latu, Australia

This was the first tour of Australia by the rugby representatives of the Friendly Isles. They played ten matches, winning four and losing six. Their outstanding performance was beating Australia 16-11 at Ballymore in the second of the two-Test series. The tour party was managed by the President of the Tongan Rugby Union, Lupeti Finau, with Tualau Latu as his assistant. The side was captained by Sione Mafi.

Full-backs: Valita Ma'ake, Fatai Kefu
Threequarters: Samiuela Latu, Siope Matapule, N Tali Kavapalu (vice-captain, Kei 'Iongi, 'Isikeli Vave, Sione Foliaki
Half-backs: Peseti Ma'afu, Malakai 'Alatini, Ha'aunga Fonua, Sateki Tupou
Forwards: Sione Mafi (captain), Kimipu 'Inoke, Siaosi Selupe, Fakahau Valu, Lasiki Moimoi, Polutele Tu'ihalamaka, Tuli Kaho, Fa'aleo Tupi, Pasifiki Tonga, Uelingatoni Pahulu, 'Inoke Lupina, Tevita Bloomfield, S Eukaliti Hehepoto

Results:
June 6 v South Australia, Adelaide - W 29-6
June 9 v Victoria, Melbourne - L 10-13
June 11 v Sydney, Sydney - W 19-14
June 16 v NSW, Sydney - L 0-18
June 19 v ACT, Canberra - L 6-17
June 23 v AUSTRALIA, Sydney - L 12-30
June 27 v NSW Country, Young - L 11-22
June 30 v AUSTRALIA, Brisbane - W 16-11
July 3 v Queensland, Brisbane - L 10-18
July 7 v Darling Downs, Toowoomba - W 12-9

'Isikeli Vave was the tour's top-scorer with five tries (20 points).

The side met Fiji on their way home, losing 24-12 at Buckhurst Park in Suva.

I believe that all of France's points in this year's Six Nations were scored by their backs. Is this unique? J-P Brun, France

All 101 of France's points in this year's tournament were indeed scored by their back division.

Morgan Parra led the way with 27 points from three conversions and seven penalty goals and Wesley Fofana was their top try-scorer with four. It was the first season in Six Nations history that French forwards had failed to register on the score-sheet.

The last time that French forwards had such an unproductive season in the International Championship was in 1985. All 49 of their points in that year's Five Nations came from their backs with Jean-Patrick Lescarboura heading the scoring list with 25 goal points. Serge Blanco (two), Patrick Estève (two) Didier Codorniou and Jerôme Gallion shared their six four-point tries. The season before, when France went to a Grand Slam decider with Scotland, the French forwards were also scoreless.

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