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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
The Olympics, high-scoring draws and Cambridge dual-captains
John Griffiths
August 1, 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 looks at the Olympics opening ceremony, high-scoring Test draws, the most Super Rugby tries by a forward, the 1920 Olympic title and Cambridge dual captains.

There were four Home Unions Test rugby highlights featured in the launch sequence to the London Olympic Games opening ceremony. The last was clearly England's 2003 RWC-winning dropped goal by Jonny Wilkinson, but what about the first three? Graham, England

The first in the four rugby snaps was Noel Mannion's lung-bursting touch-line dash for a try in the corner for Ireland against Wales at Cardiff in the 1989 Five Nations. Ireland won 19-13.

The second clip showed Tony Stanger's try for Scotland early in the second half of the Grand Slam showdown against England at Murrayfield in 1990 which Scotland won 13-7.

The next highlight featured ESPNscrum.com's John Taylor playing for Wales in their pulsating 19-18 win against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1971. The match is best remembered for his winning conversion of Gerald Davies's late try in the corner. But he also scored a fine try diving over near the posts just before half-time - the one featured in the opening ceremony - which Barry John converted to give Wales an 8-6 half-time lead.

The final clip was, as you say, Jonny Wilkinson's extra time dropped goal to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup (20-17) for England against Australia in Sydney.

In the recent Africa Cup Division 1B final, Madagascar beat Namibia 57-54, after extra time. Has there been any instance in Test rugby where the losing team has scored more points, and has there ever been a higher draw than 43-all, as the full time score ended up? Scott, Australia

The answer is no to both questions.

Twice the losing scores in Tests have been in the forties. Wales went down 44-50 against Argentina in Tucuman in 2004 and New Zealand lost their Tri-Nations match against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2000 by 40-46.

The highest-scoring drawn match took place at Durban in 2005 during France's tour of South Africa. The sides tied 30-all in the first Test of a two-match series. There was also a 30-all draw last year (October 2011) between Lithuania and Sweden in a Pool A Division Two match in the FIRA Championship staged in Kaunas.

Sona Taumalolo has scored plenty of tries this season. Who holds the record for most tries by a forward in a Super Rugby season? Aitzol, New Zealand

Sona Taumalolo's try (after TMO scrutiny) for the Chiefs in last Friday's Super Rugby semi-final took his total for this season's tournament to nine, a new record for a forward in a season.

The previous holder was Andrew Blowers who crossed eight times for the Auckland Blues (including one in their victorious Final against Natal) in 1996, professional Super Rugby's inaugural season.

The Olympic record shows that USA beat France 8-0 in the 1920 Antwerp Games, yet the official French record (and Scrum's) show France beating the Americans 14-5. Please explain. Aaron, United States

The explanation is that two matches took place between American and French teams that year but only the non-Olympic game is recognised by the FFR as carrying full international status.

The Americans were represented mainly by students from California's universities while the French side for the Olympic tournament was a Parisian combination drawn from the city's four main clubs at the time - R.C.F. (now known as Racing Métro), S.C.U.F., C.A.S.G. and the aptly named Olympique club.

The United States won the Olympic Final against the Parisians by 8-0 on September 5, 1920, in Antwerp. The French have never recognised the match as an official Test. Only two of their pack were past or future full Test caps while five of their backs, including the captain René Crabos, gained full international honours.

A month later, on their way home from the Games, the Americans stopped off in Paris to meet France in an official Test at Stade Colombes. There, the full strength French side exacted revenge, winning 14-5 on October 10. Only Crabos and François Borde, the French centre pairing, survived from the Olympic side, the latter scoring one of the four French tries.

Is Alastair Hignell the only player to captain both cricket and rugby at Cambridge? Jean Howe de Lancey, Namibia

He was the second player to be nominated captain of the Cambridge University Cricket and Rugby Union clubs and lead the sides in the field at Varsity Matches in the respective sports.

Frank Mitchell captained Cambridge to a 5-0 victory against Oxford in the 1895 Varsity rugby match and the following summer skippered them in a defeat in the Varsity cricket match at Lord's.

Mitchell, a Yorkshireman, attracted considerable criticism during the match when he instructed one of his bowlers to deliver no-balls in order to prevent Oxford from following-on. Oxford had the last laugh on that occasion, bouncing back to hit 330 in the last innings to win the match by four wickets.

Mitchell also played cricket and rugby at Test level, captaining England in the 1896 Calcutta Cup match.

Alastair Hignell went up to Cambridge in 1974 with a distinguished record in school sport behind him having led the England Secondary Schools (19 group) as a scrum-half. At Cambridge he successfully converted to fullback and won rugby Blues in all three of his undergraduate years. He was on the winning side each time and scored a record 19 points in the 1975 match.

He stayed on for a P.G.C.E year and was elected club captain for the 1977-78 season, this time leading Cambridge to defeat in the Varsity match. He finished his university rugby career as the leading overall scorer in the annual fixture, a record he still holds. All told he gathered 45 points comprising a four-point try, four conversions and eleven penalties.

As a cricketer he also won four Blues (1975 to 1978) and in 1977, his last year as an undergraduate, was elected cricket captain. He led his side to a draw against Oxford at Lord's scoring fifties in both innings of the match. He was also a contender for a Lions place on the rugby tour to New Zealand that summer, but the selectors were unwilling to make concessions for his Finals and so he missed out.

He was re-elected cricket captain in his post-graduate year at Cambridge, again leading his side to a draw against Oxford.

Ian Peck followed in Hignell's footsteps as a dual captain a few years later, skippering Cambridge to a 9-3 defeat at Twickenham in 1979 and to a draw at Lord's the following summer.

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