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Historical Rugby Milestones 1920s

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

1920s A short Historical Back drop of Britain

  • Irish Civil War breaks out 1922
  • 'Plaid Cymru' is formed to disseminate knowledge of the Welsh language 1925
  • John Logie Baird gives the first public demonstration of television 1926
  • Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa are recognised as autonomous 1926
  • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is created 1927
  • All women over the age of 21 get the vote 1928
  • The first 'talkie' (film with dialogue) 'The Jazz Singer' is shown in Britain 1928
  • Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin 1928
  • Wall Street Crash sparks the Great Depression 1929


United States (8) beat France (0) in Olympic Games to take gold (only two teams compete).

Fédération Française de Rugby formed.

Annual North vs. South Rugby game


The International Rugby Board introduced numbering on jerseys.

King George V unveils war memorial at Twickenham. At Twickenham a stand is built above the North terrace, under which workshops are placed.

Varsity fixture is played at Twickenham for the first time.


The Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU) became the Rugby Football League.



Rugby School, 1st November 1923

England and Wales (2G, 2DG, 1T) - 21 points; Scotland and Ireland (2G, 2T) - 16 points.

1923 centenary game

England and Wales - F. Baker (Newport); R. Harding (Cambridge University, Wales), H. M. Locke (Birkenhead Park England), R. A. Cornish (Cardiff, Wales), T. Johnson (Cardiff, Wales); W. J. A. Davies (United Services, England, Captain), C. A. Kershaw (United Services, England); W. W. Wakefield (Harlequins, England), G. S. Conway (Manchester, England), A. T. Voyce (Gloucester, England), W. G. E. Luddington (Devonport Services, England), T. Roberts (Newport, Wales), S. Morris (Cross Keys, Wales), G. Michael (Swansea, Wales), A. Baker (Neath, Wales).
Scorers - Tries by Wakefield (converted by F. Baker), A. Baker, Voyce (converted by Luddington). Johnson and Davies each a dropped goal.

Scotland and Ireland - W. E. Crawford (Lansdowne, Ireland); H. W. V. Stephenson (United Services, Ireland), G. V. Stephenson (Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland), A. L. Gracie (Harlequins, Scotland), D. J. Cussen (Dublin University, Ireland); J. C. Dykes (Glasgow Academicals, Scotland), W. E. Bryce (Selkirk, Scotland, Captain); J. M. Bannerman (Glasgow H.S.F.P., Scotland), J. C. R. Buchanan (Stewart's College F.P., Scotland), D. S. Davies (Hawick, Scotland), J. R. Lawrie (Melrose, Scotland), L. M. Stuart (Glasgow H.S.F.P., Scotland), W. P. Collopy (Bective Rangers, Ireland), T. A. McClelland (Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland), R. Y. Crichton (Dublin University, Ireland).

Scorers - Tries by H. Stephenson, Davies, G. Stephenson (converted by Davies), Bannerman (converted by Crawford). Referee - V. H. Cartright (England).

(What follows has been excerpted from the chapter by the late O. L. Owen, then distinguished correspondent of The Times, in his book The History of the Rugby Football Union.)
One of the outstanding events in the history of the Rugby Football Union was the Centenary of the Rugby game itself which was reached in 1923. An ideal setting for its celebration clearly existed in the famous Close of Rugby School and there, on November 1, was played a unique match, which also turned to be a great one. Only 2,000 people were there to watch it, but about a third of those were schoolboys bursting with enthusiasm and hero worship. The remainder were guests of the headmaster and the Rugby Union and among them were survivors of the first international match (between Scotland and England in Edinburgh in 1871).

England and Wales had rather the better of the earlier play yet, when all of a sudden, the scoring began it was the men in blue and green who accomplished it. H. W. Stephenson, who scored the try, never ran with greater determination for the goal-line. The try, however, remained a try and the Anglo-Welsh fifteen not only struck back quickly and with effect but seized a lead of six points through a try and two successful kicks at goal, Cornish had created the opening which led to one of Wakefield's most impressive charges for the line and F. Baker made this try count five points. A few moments later Voyce nearly added a second try. Even so the effort was not wasted. From a scrum Kershaw threw out a long pass to Johnson who dropped as fine a goal as one could imagine. The Scots and Irish, for their part, replied by scoring their second try, touched down by Davies, the Hawick forward, in support of another strong run by H. W. Stephen son. Again the place-kick failed but there was little in it at half-time when England and Wales led by 9 points to 6.

The game had hardly re-started when a rush by the Anglo-Welsh pack resulted in a try by Baker, the Neath forward. The kick failed but, just as the opposing pack seemed to be getting fairly into a stride, an opportunist masterpiece by W. J. A. Davies brought his side a second dropped goal and so raised the Anglo-Welsh lead to the formidable figure of 10 points. It was here that the match really became a classic. By a supreme effort Scotland and Ireland drew level. A breakaway by Lawrie, supported by Gracie, sent George Stephenson over at the posts and D. S. Davies converted. The side now fairly roused seized upon a loose pass by an opponent and forced their fourth and last try, scored by Bannerman and converted by Crawford, and to the general amazement the score stood at 16 all. The Scots and Irish forwards were now going all out for the kill but England and Wales were fighting back bravely with a shrewd resource and they regained the lead. Cornish made a breakaway which, with the support of Voyce and Luddington in the loose, was to settle everything. Before the defence could solidify, the two forwards were through and over the goal-line. Voyce was credited with the try and Luddington converted. Even then it was not all over for in the final moments Bannerman headed a rush which only failed by inches.

Spanish Rugby Federation founded.

Tongan RFU founded.


Feb 2nd, Scotland beat Wales at Inverleith, Edinburgh. Scotland won by 4 goals, one penalty and four tries (35) to two goals (10)

Wales:   Scotland:
B.O. Male (Cardiff)   D. Drysdale (Heriot's FP)
Harold J. Davis (Newport)   I.S. Smith
J. Elwyn Evans (Llanelli)   G.P.S. Macpherson
M.A. Rosser (Penarth)   G.G. Aitken
T. Johnson (Cardiff)   A.C. Wallace (Oxford Uni)
V.M. Griffiths (Newport)   H. Waddell (Glasgow Acads.)
Eddie Watkins (Neath)   W.E. Bryce (Selkirk)
J. Whitfield (Newport, Captain)   J.C.R. Buchanan (Stewart's coll., FP., Captain)
S. Morris (Cross Keys)   J.M. Bannerman (Glasgow HSFP)
Ivor Morris (Swansea)   D.M. Bertram
Tom Jones (Newport)   A.C. Gillies (Watsonians)
C. Pugh (Maesteg)   K.G.P. Hendrie (Heriot's FP.)
Ivor Jones (Llanenni)   R.A. Howie (Kirkcaldy)
W.J. Ould (Cardiff)   J.R. Lawrie (leicester)
Gwyn Francis (Llanelli)   A. Ross (Kilmarnock)

March 8th - Wales vs Ireland in Cardiff

1924 Ireland Team
1924 Irish side that played Wales

Ireland Won 13 (8) - 10 (3).

USA successfully defend the Olympic title (USA 17 - France 3), this is a great story! Romania take the bronze. Rugby has since been discontinued in the Olympic programme.

A touring team consisting of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales became known as the "British Lions" while playing in South Africa because they wore ties with the British Lion emblem on them.

March 8th - Seventeen-year-old Frank Hewitt, the youngest man to play for Ireland, helped them to a 13-10 win at Cardiff in front of two future kings - the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) and Duke of York (later King George VI) - and the first Labour prime minister, Ramsey MacDonald. It was a great family day as Hewitt's older brother, Tom, was also making his debut and the pair of them scored Ireland's tries.

Samoan RFU founded.


Cyril Brownlie the first man sent off in an international (England vs. New Zealand at Twickenham). The 1924/25 New Zealand team gained the nickname "The Invincible's", after winning all 32 matches on tour.

  cyril brownlie  

February 7th Wales vs. Scotland at St Helen's Swansea. Ian Smith the brilliant Scottish winger scored four splendid tries, two of which were from 60 yards out. Scotland built a 21-0 lead before Wales scored 14 points in the last 15 minutes to make the final score 24-14. Scotland went on to win the triple crown. The Scottish three-quarter line all played together at Oxford Uni.

Wales:   Scotland:
T. Johnson (Cardiff)   D. Drysdale (Heriot's FP)
W.P James (Abervon)   I.S. Smith
Evan Williams (Abervon)   G.P.S. Macpherson (Capt.)
R.A. Cornish (Cardiff)   G.G. Aitken
Cyril Thomas (Bridgend)   A.C. Wallace (Oxford Uni)
W.J. Hopkins (Abervon)   J. C. Dykes
W.J. Delahay (Cardiff)   J.B. Nelson (Glasgow Acads.)
C. Pugh (Maesteg)   J.M. Bannerman (Glasgow HSFP)
S. Morris (capt.)   J.C.H. Ireland (Glasgow HSFP)
R.C. Herrera (Cross keys)   D.S. Davies (Hawick)
Bryn Phillips (Abervon)   J.R. Paterson (Birkenhead Park)
W. Idris Jones (Llanelli)   J.W. Scott (Stewart's coll., FP)
D. Parker (Swansea)   A.C. Gillies (Watsonians)
Idris Richards (Cardiff)   R.A. Howie (Kirkcaldy)
S. Lawrence (Bridgend)   D.J. MacMyn (London Scottish)


British Police Rugby founded, when a semi-official body known as the Police Rugby Union arranged a few matches during the course of several seasons starting with the civil service. This picked up very quickly with Police Rugby Union sides playing against English Counties like Devon and Cornwall. Records show that a British Police team toured the West Country and Cornwall as early as 1932. This led on to fixtures with such famous clubs as Pontypool in 1934 and Llanelli in 1937.


First important 7-a-side tournament organized at Twickenham (in aid of Middlesex hospital). Won by Harlequins.

Staines RFC founded.

Japanese RFU founded.


Captain H.B.T. Wakelam was the first to broadcast a commentary on a Rugby International for the BBC, the match in question being England v. Wales in 1927. He became one of the team of all-round commentators, covering not just rugby, boxing, cricket and tennis, but also other things entirely, such as Tidworth Tattoo. His speciality was always rugby, however. England won the game 11-9. 

1 week later the first radio commentary of a soccer game between Arsenal and Sheffield United took place. This later broadcast benefited from the many problems associated with the rugby broadcast.

Top added above old East Stand at Twickenham which brings the stand's capacity to 12,000.

Oxford Varsity Team

Cambridge win the 52nd Varsity game 22 points to 14

Oxford Varsity Team (Image courtesy Justin Lusty)
Team List (Image courtesy of Rugby Relics)

Youtube of game




1928 Ireland team
1928 Irish side that played France

Italian Rugby Federation founded.


The original Rugby Union of Canada was founded in September, 1929, and lasted until the outbreak of the War in 1939. It was not revived until 1965 as the Canadian Rugby Union.

Italy’s first international fixture. They lose 9-0 to Spain.

5th October 1929, at Twickenham: Memorial gates unveiled at Twickenham in honour of Sir George Rowland Hill.


England and Wales (2G, 1T - 13 points. Scotland and Ireland (2G, 1 DG, 2T) - 20 points.

England and Wales - J. Bassett (Penarth, Wales); J. C. Morley (Newport, Wales), C. D. Aarvold (Blackheath, England), W. G. Morgan (Cambridge University, Wales), J. S. R. Reeve (Harlequins, England); F. L. Williams (Cardiff, Wales), W. C. Powell (London Welsh, Wales); H. Rew (Blackheath. England), J. S. Tucker (Bristol, England, Captain), D. Parker (Swansea, Wales), T. Arthur (Neath, Wales), R. Barrell (Cardiff, Wales), I. Jones (Llanelli, Wales), C. D. A. Gummer (Plymouth Albion, England), E. Coley (Northampton, England). Scorers - Tries by Reeve, Morley, Williams. Parker converted two,

Scotland and Ireland - T. G. Aitchison (Gala, Scotland), I. S. Smith (London Scottish, Scotland), G. P. S. Macpherson (Edinburgh Academicals, Scotland, Captain), P. Murray (Wanderers, Ireland), W. M. Simmers (Glasgow Academicals, Scotland); E. O'D. Davy (Lansdowne, Ireland), M. Sugden (Wanderers, Ireland); J. W. Allan (Melrose, Scotland), H. S. Mackintosh (West of Scotland, Scotland), R. T. Smith (Kelso, Scotland), G. R. Beamish (Leicester, Ireland), M. J. Dunne (Lansdowne, Ireland), C. T. Payne (N.I.F.C., Ireland), J. L. Farrell (Bective Rangers, Ireland), W. B. Welsh (Hawick, Scotland).

Scorers - Tries by Simmers, Davy, Payne, I. S. Smith. Allan converted two. Davy, dropped goal.
Referee - M. Muntz (France).

Few who saw the Centenary Match at Rugby could have foreseen that in six years two similar combinations would appear at Twickenham in what was to become known as the Rowland Hill Memorial Match. The colonade which is at the entrance to the ground was erected in memory of Sir George Rowland Hill, who had been one of rugby football's outstanding administrators and personalities, and it was unveiled by Mr W. T. Pearce, President of the Rugby Union, before the match.

While there was plenty movement in the game and the scoring kept interest well alive the play never quite equalled the high drama of the Centenary Match. It was nevertheless splendid entertainment for the spectators and this time the Scots-Irish not only again scored four tries to three but in the last ten minutes added a dropped goal which ensured victory.
Early in the play Simmers had opened the scoring with a fine try but England-Wales soon retaliated with an equally good score. Reeve ran in to complete an attack and Parker converted. But the lead quickly changed again when Davy and Payne scored tries which Allan converted. Then followed a try by Morley converted by Parker and 13-10 at the interval was far from a conclusive advantage for the eventual winners. Indeed it soon disappeared when Williams scored the third try for his side. The combination of Macpherson and Ian Smith, however, brought about the decisive try scored by the latter. Then Davy widened the winning margin when, in support of one of several telling rushes by his forwards, he dropped the goal which completed the scoring.

The twelve Lions-to-be for the 1930 tour to Australia and New Zealand were, from the winning team - Murray, Beamish, Dunne, Farrell and Welsh. The Anglo-Welsh players were - Bassett, Morley, Aarvold, Reeve, Parker, Rew and Jones. Perhaps it should be added that those 1930 Lions whose backs gave many spectacular displays in New Zealand beat the All Blacks in the first Test 6-3 with what can fairly be described as a sensational winning try in the closing minutes. From intense pressure Ivor Jones broke away with eighty yards to go and after drawing G. Nepia, the famous New Zealand full-back, at midfield he gave Morley a clear run for the still distant goal-line.



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