Sunday, 29 November 2009
Here's a postcard from the French 'Rugby Pioneers' blog (above). It was issued in 1906, a souvenir of the visit to the British Isles by the first touring New Zealand side, the 'Originals' (below), who gained their forbidding All Blacks moniker on the tour. They were beaten only once, by Wales, a victory which is reckoned to have kicked off Wales' rugby mania.
However, a Welsh victory has only happened twice more in the 104 years since, Wales losing uncomfortably again a few weeks ago. Makes you wonder whether Wales were misled by their early enthusiasm - but then they've always had a good chance of beating England and that has surely made it very worthwhile.
The last time Wales won was in 1953 (I posted on Haydn Tanner, one of the players who'd played in the previous 1935 victory, here). The great Bleddyn Williams, 'Prince of Centres', played. He died earlier this year and a documentary was shown on BBC2 in the summer. He grew up in Taffs Well and went to school with two of my uncles. The programme showed a school photo of Taffs Well primary school's rugby XV and visible there were the little boys and future great-uncles, Mervyn and Arthur, arms folded, trying to look implacable. Strange to see them so young. (For those interested, I posted on the boys' father, my great-grandfather, here; on their equally ill-fated cousin here; and their home farm and some of my father's early farming experiences here.)
Anyway, last night the devilish All Blacks beat France 39-12 in Marseilles. As they say over there, plus ça change...