• Ask Steven

Victory at last for the missing Welsh caps

John Griffiths December 5, 2013
Haydn Tanner ... called up but was serving with the army © PA Photos
Enlarge

The WRU recently awarded President's caps to players who took part in Victory internationals in 1945-6 and internationals against overseas sides in the 1960s and 1970s. Why weren't caps given at the time? Wyn Rowlands, Wales

President's caps were awarded to 25 players (or their families) at a special presentation on the day of the recent Wales v Tonga match at Cardiff. The special matches covered by the award are the two Victory internationals played by Welsh XVs against France (1945 and 1946) and games against Argentina (1968), Tonga (1974), Japan (1975) and Romania (1979).

In each case Wales's opponents recognised the matches as cap games at the time. The games, however, will not affect the Welsh international records. Only players who were not already full caps or never subsequently became full caps qualified for the President's award.

The Four Home Unions hastily arranged a series of matches in 1945-46 for the first season after World War Two. Travel difficulties meant that it was impossible to stage a complete Five Nations tournament and with many of the leading players still serving in the Forces, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales agreed that full caps would not be awarded for matches in what became known as the "Victory Series."

The argument against capping was that none of the Home Unions had its best fifteen available.

The distinguished Welsh international scrum-half Haydn Tanner (whose Test career spanned 14 years from 1935 to 1949), for example, was named in the Welsh XV to face France at Swansea in December 1945. In the event, he was unable to travel from Austria where he was serving with his unit and Cardiff's Billy Darch stood in for him behind the scrum. Six others from that Welsh XV never won full caps but were honoured recently with President's caps.

France were in a different position. Their club championship was resurrected in 1942-3 after a three-year break. By the end of the War, their rugby was flourishing and the FFR had no hesitation awarding full cap status to matches played by full-strength sides against Wales, Ireland and the New Zealand Army team known as "The Kiwis".

Between 1964 and 1979 Welsh XVs also played matches against Fiji, Argentina, Tonga, Japan and Romania. At the time members of the International Rugby Board were not permitted to award caps against nations that were outside the Board's membership (which, until the late 1980s, comprised only the Five Nations, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa).

It was not until 1981 that the Board lifted this restriction. England were the first Union to take advantage of the new ruling when Bill Beaumont's side played two full cap Tests against Argentina in the summer of that year.

John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Feeds Feeds: John Griffiths

WRITER BIO
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.
Ask Your Question
Ask Steven on Facebook »
RECENT POSTS