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War halts French comeback

John GriffithsMay 13, 2014
Wilf Wooller in action in 1939, but he also scored a hat-trick for a British side against France in 1938 © PA Photos
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Was a Five Nations fixture list published for the aborted 1939-40 season? I'd be interested to see how it was planned to bring France back. David Stevens, England

The Home Unions had broken off relations with France in February 1931, so that from 1932 until 1939 the Five Nations tournament reverted to a Four Nations Home Championship.

The Home Unions agreed, however, to reinstate fixtures with France for 1939-40 and a full Championship fixture list was drawn up for that season, when the Wallabies were also due to make a tour of Britain and Ireland.

The Wallabies arrived in England on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War which enforced the abandonment of the season's fixtures.

The international schedule was as follows:

1939
November 25 - Scotland v Australia (Murrayfield)
December 9 - Ireland v Australia (Lansdowne Road)
December 23 - Wales v Australia (Cardiff Arms Park)

1940
January 1 - France v Scotland (Paris)
January 6 - England v Australia (Twickenham)
January 20 - Wales v England (Cardiff)
January 27 - Ireland v France (Ravenhill)
February 3 - Scotland v Wales (Murrayfield)
February 10 - Ireland v England (Lansdowne Road)
February 24 - England v France (Twickenham)
February 24 - Scotland v Ireland (Murrayfield)
March 9 - Wales v Ireland (St Helen's Ground)
March 16 - England v Scotland (Twickenham)
March 25 - France v Wales (Paris)

It is likely that the Wallabies would have spent a week on the Continent after the England game, with a fixture against France in Paris on either January 13/14.

In the event all fixtures (except schoolboy games) were cancelled with effect from September 12 1939. An informal season, however, began later the same month during the period of the "Phoney War." England and Wales played each other home and away later in the season - Prince Alex Obolensky's last appearance in representative rugby - and on Sunday February 25 a fixture between a British Army side and France took place at the old Parc des Princes in Paris to consolidate the renewed relations made with the FFR.

A British side that included many who had toured South Africa with the 1938 Lions beat the inexperienced French 36-3, Wilf Wooller scoring three tries.

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

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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.

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