East Wales The Team That Tamed The Mighty 1967 All Blacks

In the olden days, when I was young, the annual Autumn international jamboree attended by every national team under the sun didn’t exist.

We used to welcome a single country’s rugby squad, who stayed for months on end.

They toured these islands, played against club sides, regional sides, national teams and then we all said our goodbyes with a match against the barbarians.

They stayed in small towns and large cities the length and breadth of the country, mixed with the locals, with the exception of Keith Murdoch, and left life long memories.

They got to know us and we got to know them, warts and all, but it made the cold wet winters bearable, then as winter faded and the days started to lengthen they headed home.

50 years ago the All Blacks toured the UK and France, a formidable and physically impressive squad they went through their fifteen match tour unbeaten.

The nearest they came to defeat was a drawn match against a hastily assembled East Wales side at Cardiff Arms Park

The match had originally been scheduled for the Saturday, but heavy snow fell throughout Wales, and although the playing surface was okay, the icy snow-covered terraces would have been a danger to spectators so the match was called off.

40,000 turned up on the following Wednesday afternoon, a week before Christmas, to watch a match which was expected to be an easy win for the unbeaten all-conquering all Blacks.

It was an overcast day and the pitch was greasy, the more mobile East Wales pack made the New Zealand forwards look ponderous, and the All Blacks half backs were put under a great deal of pressure throughout the game.

In the 22nd minute Lyn Baxter won a line-out and Barry John tried a dropkick it’s swerved away to the left of the posts but Frank Wilson followed up to beat Thorne to the touchdown.
Shortly afterwards Cardiff could, and maybe should have, been awarded a penalty try when a diagonal kick intended for winger Keri Jones saw him race to the line with McCormack, only for the New Zealander to Barge him out-of-the-way as they reached the ball.

Later in the first half Wilson went over for a try for the Welsh only to be called back for an infringement.

A try was only worth three points in those days so it was three nil to East Wales, the score remained the same at the end of the half

In the second-half East Wales launched attack after attack on the All Blacks line.

Several kickable penalties came their way which they missed resulting in Captain Gareth Edwards taking over the kicking duties and missing two kickable penalties himself from fairly easy positions.

10 minutes from time, and against the run of play, came the Steel try that saved the All Blacks blushes.

Lahore raced away from the scrum on halfway with Davies in support, Davies passed it out to Steel with the cover defence coming across and 50 yards to go a try did not look likely, but Steel beat off his tacklers to score probably the best, and definitely the most important try of the tour, to level the scores at 3-3

East Wales continued their onslaught on the All Blacks line, and there was almost a sensational finish when Barry John’s last second drop goal grazed the right upright.
It was felt the home side should have won this game and deserved to do so but the All Blacks hung on in there and saved their unbeaten tour record.

Gareth Edwards playing scrum half that day says “I was barely 20 years old though it was only a few months later that I captained Wales for the first time”.

“Dai Hayward, the former Cardiff and Wales wing, was asked to coach the East Wales side, though coaching was very much in its infancy then. He said we’d better meet up and have a chat about the game, so we met in what was then the Cockney Pride, a pub in Cardiff, where over a lunch of curry and chips , we discussed our tactical approach to this enormous event. I can still remember Dai’s opening line: “Well boy, there’s no point complicating anything.” If we get hold of the ball, he said, let’s move it”.

“On the Saturday of the scheduled match the whole town was covered in snow. I went down to the Angel Hotel, where we were due to have lunch, to find out what was going on. It turned out the All Blacks were staying there as well, so we had a few beers together”.

“It might be a case of the old memory playing tricks, but I think we completely outplayed them and should have won it. For a long time we led 3-0 and it didn’t look for a moment like they were going to score”.

“Afterwards the All Blacks manager, Charlie Saxton, spoke to us, and said they were very, very fortunate not to have lost. It was a harsh lesson for a young player like me to learn, but the All Blacks absolutely never gave up until the game was over. Tony Steel went on a great run down the wing, and that was 3-3, it was just about the only chance they had”.

“Even then, Barry John had a drop-goal chance at the death that just took the paint off the upright. Had we won it, against one of the greatest teams I ever played against, people would still be talking about it with great reverence. It was a wonderful performance by a side that had been put together literally in a week”.

“The two teams had a dinner and a few beers afterwards, but it was a Wednesday night, I had to get back to college and anyway I was playing them again at the weekend for the Barbarians. So in the end I said, “OK lads, we’ll see you on Saturday.”

The All Blacks won 14 of their 15 matches on the 1967 tour, beating England 23-11, Scotland 14-3 and Wales 13-6.


South Africa 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Focuses On Player Welfare

South Africa, Ireland and France have an anxious wait until November 15 before they find out whether or not they have been successful in their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

At the presentations to World Rugby the week before last,each country spoke of projected profits, of stadia, infrastructure, ticket sales, hospitality, but by in large the most important contributors, the players themselves, were barely mentioned, with the exception of the South Africa bid.

With Francois Piennar and John Smit on the panel they certainly painted the picture of  a player centric tournament, should they get the opportunity to host it in 2023.

At a time when player welfare is a hot topic, with talk of the possibility that players may be have to go on strike to reduce the intolerable increased demands being put upon them, and their health, the Springbok delegation were at pains to point out that player welfare will be at heart of RWC 2023, should they be declared hosts.

One of their key pillars of delivering the tournament centres on match schedules and team bases, designed to maximise player welfare, ahead of cost or indeed any other considerations.

Some of the proposals may seem small and insignificant, but the fact that they are the only bidders to even mention the players in their plans, gives them a lot of respect and credibility in my opinion, and who knows it may just be the little extra factor that makes the difference between winning and losing the Rugby World Cup bid.

A South African world cup ensures all training venues are a maximum 17 minutes travelling time from the teams accommodation, and all training venues will have everything in one location such as swimming pool, gym, indoor and outdoor pitches.

Players will not have to check out of their “home” hotels for “away” matches in the pool stages, they will simply vacate their rooms with minimal luggage for their trip.

Travel will be reduced to a minimum, in the pool stages 8 teams will remain at their home team base, playing all matches at their home venues, with the remaining 12 teams only having to travel “away” for one of their matches.

For the semi finals and finals all four teams will locate to Johannesburg for the final two weeks of the tournament.

Aside from player welfare, the weather (Averaged at 22 degrees in September and October) and beer were highlighted, with South Africa stating a beer worked out at £1,75 in their country, as opposed to £5.70 in France, and £4.25 in Ireland.

Because of the sheer size of all eight of the stadiums designated for use, more tickets would be on sale than at any other world cup, 2.9 million to be exact, 400,000 more than the England 2015 tournament.

The final would be played at the National Stadium in Johannesburg, which has a capacity of 87,436 making it potentially the largest ever Rugby World Cup Final in history.


South Africa last hosted the tournament in 1995, as if you needed reminding, and who will ever forget the two men that wore the green and gold number 6 shirt that day, a day enshrined in rugby history, but more importantly a day when rugby was the catalyst for uniting a country, a day when Francois Piennar lifted the pot of gold at the beginning of the rainbow nation.




Wales And Australia Lest We Forget

As the darkened leaves blew across the river Taff yesterday, it felt like a proper Autumn day in the Welsh capital.

A feeling of deja vu as yet again Wales faced the Wallabies, a fixture that used to be so rare, and exotic,but these days is an almost annual occurrence.

Sadly the deja vu also manifested itself in the result, a win for Australia.

But on November 11 it seemed appropriate to reflect on darker times, when Wales and Australia united and fought a much tougher battle on foreign fields, where many of them would pay the ultimate price.

I hope my roll call will continue to keep the names of these heroes alive, and remind us  that when all is said and done. there are actually much more important things in life than rugby and although this is something we all tend to forget at times, we will always remember the brave men listed below.




Richard Thomas

Born: Ferndale, 14 October 1883.

Killed in action : Mametz Wood 7 July 1916.
Wales: Four caps, 1906-1909.

John Lewis Williams
Born: Whitchurch, Cardiff, 3 January 1882.
Died of wounds: Corbie 12 July 1916.
Wales: 17 caps, 1906-1911.

David Westacott
Born: Cardiff, 10 October 1882.
Killed in action: Wieltje, 28 August 1917.
Wales: One cap, 1906.

Horace Wyndham Thomas
Born: Pentyrch, 28 July 1890.
Killed in action: Ancre, 3 September 1916.
Wales : Two caps, 1912-1913.

Richard Davies Garnons Williams
Born: Llowes, Radnorshire, 15 June, 1856.
Killed in Action: 25 September 1915 while leading his battalion at the Battle of Loos.
Wales: One cap, 1881.

Charles Gerald Taylor
Born: Ruabon, North Wales, 8 May 1863.
Killed in action: 24 January, 1915 at the Battle of Dogger Bank when his ship HMS Tiger was hit by fire from German cruiser SMS Blucher.
Wales: Ninecaps, 1884-1887.

Louis “Lou” Augustus Phillips
Born: Newport, Monmouthsire, 24 February 1878.
Killed in action: Cambrai, on 14 March 1916.
Wales: Four caps, 1900-1901.

Charles Mayrick Pritchard
Born: Newport, Monmouthshire, 30 September 1882
Died of wounds: 14 August, casualty clearing station, Western Front.
Wales: 14 caps, 1904-1910.

Phillip Dudley Waller
Born: Bath, Somerset, 28 January 1889.
Killed in action: Hit by shellfire, 14 December 1917, Arras.
Wales: Six caps, 1908-1910.

Brinley Richard Lewis
Born: 4, January 1891, Pontardawe.
Killed in action: 2 April, 1917 Ypres, France, hit by shellfire.
Wales: Two caps, 1912-193.

William “Billy” Purdon Geen
Born: 14 March 1891, Newport, Monmouthshire.
Killed in action: Hooge, Flanders, 31 July, 1915.
Wales: Three caps, 1912-1913.

Fred Leonard Perrett
Born: Briton Ferry, 9 May 1891.
Died of wounds: 1 December 1918, in a clearing station weeks after the armistice.
Wales: Five caps, 1912-1913

David Watts
Born: Maesteg 14 March 1886.
Killed in action : 14 July 1916 at Bazentin Ridge, France.
Wales: Four caps, 1914.


Cecil Rhys Davies  (1 Cap)

John R Evans   (1 Cap)

Maurice J.L. Turnbull   (2 Caps)


An estimated sixty Wallabies enlisted in the armed forces to fight in World War I


Blair Inskip Swannell   25 April 1915

Edward Rennix Larkin   25 April 1915

Harold Wesley George   10 May 1915

Frederick Herbert Thompson   29 May 1915

Arthur Verge   8 September 1915

George Harold Pugh   5 September 1916

Herbert Jones   4 November 1916

Clarence Wallach MC   22 April 1918

Bryan Desmond Hughes MC   6 August 1918

William George Tasker   9 August 1918

At least 139 Wallabies served in Word War II, including fourteen of the fifteen players that played in the last test against New Zealand, on 13 August 1938, six of this team lost their lives:


Michael Clifford     9 October 1942

Edwin Sautelle Hayes   12 January 1942

Eric Ebsworth Hutchinson  27 January 1943

Winston Phillip James Ide   12 September 1944

Russell Lindsay Frederick Kelly   25 December 1943

Frederick Raymond Kerr    23 April 1941

Clifford Walter Patrick Lang   4 March 1942

Kenelm McKenzie Ramsay   1 March 1942

Alhambra Nievas The Granada 1983 Vintage Is Still Breaking Down Barriers

Beas de Granada is located in one of the most beautiful places around Granada with panoramic views southwards towards the Sierra Navada.

The town is steeped in history from the time of the Roman Empire, where it grew from being a coach house at a crossroads, to becoming a farmstead with just twenty families when under Arab rule.

It is situated 1072 meters above sea level and is part of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Huetor.

So what has this to do with rugby I hear you ask ?, well this delightful town is the family home of one of the world’s best rugby referees Alhambra Nievas.

The tractor driving, olive harvesting referee never forgets her roots, quite literally come harvest time, the olives have been plentiful as indeed has her rugby harvest.

Some referees like fine wine just seem to get better with age and this 1983 vintage shows no sign of deterioration and is looking better than ever.

Incorrectly listed, much to her delight, as 28 years of age in the official Womens Rugby World programme, Alhambra actually reached the tender age of 34 on the very day the tournament started in Dublin.

Taking charge of the World Cup semi final, at the Kingspan stadium, in Belfast, between New Zealand and USA was a huge thrill for her and her team, and undoubtedly yet another highlight of what has already been a glittering career.

The ultimate team player, it was wonderful to witness her genuine delight for friend and refereeing colleague, Joy Neville, when she was awarded the World Cup Final between England and New Zealand.

Radio, television and other commitments have made things hectic, after the tournament, with not much down time, and never one to rest on her laurels, Alhambra has successfully completed the World Rugby Educator Course, in Romania, resulting in global recognition as a trainer.

Anxious to give back to the sport what the game has given to her, the humble and modest

lady from Granada would not be aware that she has already given far more back to the game, to its values, and to encouraging young women in sport, than she could ever have received in return, but now she will able to officially use her talents to assist others intent on taking up the whistle, and in improving standards both regionally and internationally.

Once again we talk about another breakthrough for women in rugby, and once again Alhambra Nievas is involved.

On October 14th she will take charge, of Finland v Norway in the Rugby Europe International Championship, the first woman to referee a men’s game in this competition.

So whilst the folks back in Beas de Granada celebrate the pilgrimage to the chapel of the virgin del pilar del colmenar, along with the neighbouring residents of Huetor Santillan, Alhambra will be 2086 miles further north in Helsinki, preparing for the match.

It is doubly good news for women’s rugby as Joy Neville will referee the match between Norway and Denmark a few days later.

The breakthroughs don’t end there, in yet another first Alhambra will be the first non Commonwealth referee to officiate at the rugby 7s on the Gold Coast, Australia, in the Fifteenth Commonwealth Games next April.

Six nations duty will hopefully be on the cards after christmas, after her superb handing of last years decider in the Dublin monsoon, between Ireland and England, and then there is the mouth-watering prospect of the Rugby World Cup Sevens Tournament in San Francisco.

Before all that Alhambra, as well as attending to domestic refereeing duties in Spain, undertaking Women’s World Sevens duties in Dubai, and only last week was in Marcoussis, near  Paris, for two days, along with fellow whistling amigo Iñigo Atorrasagasti, as a member of the panel of referees for the prestigious European competitions under the auspices of the EPCR.

Unlike many fine wines the 1983 vintage travels well, but there is no doubt that the native soil of Beas de Granada beneath her feet gives her the perfect balance to the busy grassy rugby fields of the world.

Vamos amigo



Will Rugby World Cup 2023 Answer Irelands Call 

Last weeks ‘Roar” looked at the French bid to host the Rugby World cup in 2023.

Today we look at the Irish claim, exactly one week before the Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Presentation delegation present the emerald isle’s case to World Rugby, in London, on Monday September 25th, spearheaded by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD.

I would imagine that the Blarney Stone will be getting a fair bit of attention this week, but just in case that fails then  U2 and Bob Geldof will provide video pieces to strengthen the Irish cause, Geldof will recite the WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

Liam Neeson has also narrated the bids accompanying video so there is no shortage of big name backing.

The presentation team includes Dick Spring, Chairman, Ireland 2023 Oversight Board; Philip Browne, Chief Executive, IRFU; David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Philip Orr, President, IRFU; Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s Bid Ambassador and Niamh Briggs, Captain of Ireland Women’s Rugby Team

The team believe their presentation will reflect the vision and strong commercial credentials of Ireland’s proposition but also, critically, the creativity of the Irish people, which is what, they say, will make Ireland 2023 a tournament like no other.

The global distribution of Irish folk is a very important element of the bid, which   intends to demonstrate just how crucial they can be in assisting Ireland, and World Rugby, create a global stadium of 70 million people for rugby’s greatest showpiece, and in ensuring the eyes of the world will be focussed on Ireland and rugby for 6 solid weeks in 2023.

Twelve stadia have been designated for action north and south including the magnificent and iconic Croke Park

An enthusiastic team member told me

“We have spent more than 4 years assembling a world class bid and we are now very much looking forward to presenting a truly exciting and compelling vision, full of Irish spirit, to the Council on September 25th.”

Ireland are one of 3 countries presenting to World Rugby delegates in London on September 25th, the others being South Africa and France.

Each will have 30 minutes to make a formal presentation, followed by a question and answer session.

The final decision will be announced, following a vote involving the constituent Unions and associations of World Rugby, on November 15th.

France 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Rocked By Scandal 

French president Emmanuel Macron’s has withdrawn as head of France’s delegation to visit World Rugby in London, on September 25th, amidst the latest scandal to engulf French rugby, the timing could not be much worse, just when a pivotal presentation needs to be made in a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Rival bidders Ireland and South Africa must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Macron originally announced with great pride that he would be happy to personally lead the presentation, one of five to speak on behalf of the French bid.

The reason for the presidents change of heart has been officially been given as ‘a clash in schedule’  but the recent scandal that has engulfed French rugby president Bernard Laporte is the more likely explanation, and the fact that France’s minister for sport Laura Flessel has ordered an inquiry into the affair, makes it even more understandable why the President has chosen to distance himself from the situation.

Laporte, a former French national coach and a sports minister under Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, was accused of using his direct influence to have disciplinary sanctions against Montpellier reduced by the French Federation de Rugby appeals committee, as a result seven members of the appeals board resigned.

Monpellier rugby club is owned by Syrian-born billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad with whom Bernard Laporte had a direct business relationship.

Also Altrad’s construction company became the first ever shirt sponsors of the French team this year, and he is also a partner in France’s 2023 World Cup bid.

It was also revealed, last month, that Altrad Investment Authority, owned by Altrad, and BL Communication, managed by Laporte, signed a one-year partnership last February.

Montpellier were fined €70,000 and hit by a one-match stadium ban for allowing fans to display banners protesting against the proposed merger between Top 14 teams Racing 92 and Stade Francais last April.

It was reduced the day after it was imposed in June to a €20,000 fine only after Laporte made a phone call to the relevant appeals board.

Laporte rejected the allegations, telling “Le Parisien” newspaper that he didn’t try to influence the board’s decision but telephoned appeals board chairman Jean-Daniel Simonet to offer “political perspective”.

“Journal du Dimanche”  obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

That refers to an alleged phone call between Laporte and Simonet in which Laporte advocated a softening of the original sanction.

The startling fact is that Since June 30th, seven members of the appeals board have resigned.

Laporte argued that he stepped in to avoid further conflict between the French Rugby Federation and the League Nationale de Rugby (LNR), who are not exactly the best of buddies, a fact underlined by the failed merger of the two Paris Top 14 clubs, Racing 92 and Stade Francais, which ended up in the French courts.

The newspaper “Journal du Dimanche” obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

Laporte’s BL Communication ended their business arrangement with Altrad but there was more bad news for the FFR president when French sports minister Laura Flessel summoned him to her office .

My office has talked with him, he has submitted files, we are in full reflection. We expect further feedback and then we will have to decide,” she said.

She added that France’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid would go ahead “with or without” Laporte’s involvement.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for France’s world cup bid the French federation were forced into a public apology by World Rugby, for a tweet they posted, in which they suggested that a technical study conducted by World Rugby had France ahead in the race to host the 2023 World Cup.

The FFR tweeted the following apology on Thursday morning: “The FFR apologise for an inaccurate and misleading tweet it published on September 5 regarding the evaluation phase of the host selection process. It was incorrect to state that as a result of a technical study by World Rugby, the FFR is the leading candidate to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“The FFR respects that the host selection and evaluation process is not complete and we reiterate our full support for a fair and robust process operated by World Rugby and its independent advisors.”

And to make matters even worse Phillipe Folliot, president of Rugby Parliamentary Friendship Society in France who, whilst supporting the Rugby World Cup bid, described it as “a big dress rehearsal” for the 2024 Paris Olympics adding that it was a “chance to test security”.

World Rugby are going to love their tournament being thought of as an aperitif to the Olympics, and if there is an event for the individual shooting of feet in the Paris Olympics, then France will bring home the gold.

Ireland, France and South Africa will make their final presentations to World Rugby in London on September 25th while the host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be announced at the governing body’s council meeting on November 15th.



A League Of Their Own Tyrrells Premier 15S 

With 10 clubs in a league format, the Tyrrells Premier 15s starts on September 16 and the clubs will play each other home and away, with the top four progressing to a two-leg semifinal stage and the winners to a final on April 29.

The RFU will invest £2.4 million over the next three seasons in the league and crisp-manufacturer Tyrrells is the first major sponsor of a women’s rugby competition in England.

It is understood these matches will be shown free of charge on the RFU website, although there are also plans to consider streaming via Facebook and other online platforms.

The launch of the new women’s league comes at a crucial moment for the sport after England’s run to the Women’s Rugby World Cup final, which ended with a frustrating but compelling defeat by New Zealand and the controversy over the RFU’s funding of the women’s team.

Following England’s victory at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, the RFU first handed out central contracts to female players in 2014 to help them prepare for the inaugural Olympic sevens competition at Rio 2016, which saw an England-dominated Great Britain side narrowly miss out on a medal.

Fifty central contracts were awarded in 2016, 17 of them full-time, for the build-up to this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup but it was always planned that some of those contracts would not be renewed after the tournament as the focus reverted to sevens in 2018

Despite wide calls for a rethink on the central contracts decision, the RFU has stuck to its strategy of targeting funding at the most relevant format of the game in each competition cycle and concentrated its efforts on increasing England’s talent pool and developing a sustainable financial model.

This is why it is so keen to promote the Tyrrells Premier 15s, which it sees as a commitment to the women’s game unrivalled in world rugby and a key plank in its strategy to double the number of female players in England to 50,000 by 2021.

The inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s season launched last Thursday with all 10 club captains, coaches and club directors of rugby attending an event at Twickenham Stadium.

 England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter, Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather and Nigel Melville discussed how the new competition will revolutionise the existing landscape of women’s domestic rugby.


Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Professional Rugby said: “It’s about raising the standard of the game and giving the athletes and clubs the support they need to be better. There was a gap between our club game and our international game so we wanted to put in a place a competition that was aspirational for younger players. We hope to double the number women and girls playing the game over the next four years to 50,000 players and a lot of them will want to participate in this league. This will help create better players.”


England Women captain and newly appointed Loughborough Lightening assistant coach and player Sarah Hunter said “The new Tyrrells Premier 15s is where the game needs to be in terms of professionalism, high-quality coaching as well as support from strength and conditioning as well as medical teams. The league has been crying out for this for years and for the RFU to come in and transform it is fantastic. It’s great to be involved in it on and off the pitch.”

Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather said: “I can already see the difference the increase investment is having at my club. The athletes are really excited, there is a huge buzz about the place. We have an strength and conditioning department now, the medical team has improved and everything is there for them because of the sponsorship we have got. The excitement is palpable. We can’t wait until the 16th for the competition to begin”


A new website, Premier15s.com will officially launch ahead of next weekend’s first round of of fixtures.


Tyrrells Premier 15s will operate in a league format with home and away fixtures confirmed today. The top four teams will progress to semi-finals played over two legs, culminating in a final on the 29th April. 

Full list of fixtures