Kingsholm's brief day in the sun
England on the attack early in the game at Kingsholm © Scrum.com
Kingsholm in Gloucester was the venue for the season's England-Wales game. With the Boer War raging in South Africa, God Save the Queen was sung before an international rugby match for the first time. Wales won 13-3 with tried from wing Billy Trew and forward Dick Hellings. England alternated between Richmond and Blackheath for home matches (Twickenham was still a decade away) but the ambitious Gloucester authorities successfully petitioned for Kingsholm to be used. But things did not go well. A temporary stand collapsed shortly before kick off and in the end only 3517 tickets were sold in advance and with total takings of only £934, the Gloucester club made a loss of £665. The venue did not stage another international fixture until the 1991 World Cup.
The legendary Welsh fly-half Barry John was born in Cefneithin. One of the most revered figures in the history of the game, John's mastery of space and water-tight kicking game made him a hero to the rugby-mad Welsh fans, who christened him 'The King'.
England's World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward was born in Ely, Cambs.
In one of the more bizarre partnerships of recent times, romantic fiction publishers Mills and Boon formed an unlikely agreement with the RFU to produce a set of rugby-themed novels. In a series of stories for their "International Billionaires" selection, plans for eight books to be produced with RFU backing were announced. "They've got all the elements of a quintessential Mills & Boon romance: jet set locations, hunky alpha male heroes and hot sex, but in a rugby context," said the publisher.
Maesteg fly-half Alan Rees played himself into the Welsh team with an outstanding performance in the Welsh Trial, which was switched from Swansea to Newport owing to frost. To the satisfaction of the selectors the diminutive 'Probables' No.10 steered his side to a convincing 20-9 win against the 'Possibles'.
The Welsh selectors dropped a bombshell by taking the bold step of dropping their Triple Crown leader Clive Rowlands, who had made 14 successive Welsh appearances, all as captain. Allan Lewis replaced him at scrum-half for Wales' opening match of the Five Nations against England at Twickenham.
Ian Kirkpatrick played a captain's part in scoring the only try of the match as New Zealand beat England 9-0 at Twickenham. In front of over 70,000 fans the All Blacks scraped home, with wing Bryan Williams slotting a drop-goal.
Bath fell to their only home defeat in a season that saw them do the League/Cup double in England. Five John Liley penalties gave Leicester a 15-14 victory at the Rec where Bath wing Adedayo Adebayo scored the only try of the game. Jon Callard completed the scoring for Bath with three penalties.