When the Back Row was King

Discussion as to what comprises the best combination of players in the back row of a test pack has gone on for years.  In recent times the All Blacks double World Cup winning unit of Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino has been particularly highly regarded and many pundits believe that England’s 2003 World Cup success would not have been possible without the formidable combined talents of Neil Back, Richard Hill and Lawrence Dallaglio.

New Zealand v Australia - Final: Rugby World Cup 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 31: Richie McCaw of New Zealand lifts the trophy after the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 31, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Spotlight on John Warburton Sagar

John Warburton SagarBorn on the 6th December 1878 at Deaf Hill, Trimdon, Durham, John Warburton Sagar was the eldest son of the Reverend Oates Sagar and Hannah Warburton.  He was educated at Durham School and Jesus College, Cambridge.

Whilst at Cambridge, he won rugby blues in 1899 and 1900.  Cambridge won the 1899 encounter 22-0 with the Morning Post noting “…nothing could have [been] better than the play of Sagar…who gathered the ball unerringly and never once missed getting in his kick..”

Cambridge lost the 1900 match 10-8, with Sagar being temporarily knocked out during an Oxford rush.  However, he again received praise from the Morning Post, “and nothing could have [been] better than the defence of Sagar, the full back, whose long punts continually found touch.”  In 1900, Sagar also played for a London and Universities XV against the Rest of South in an International trial match which led to his selection for England, where he displaced incumbent ‘Octopus’ Gamlin as full back.  The Pall Mall Gazette explained, “[Gamlin is] passed over in favour of Sagar, but little fault can be found with the selection committee in that respect.  Gamlin is not quite the great man that he was last season and on Saturday he made several mistakes of a critical kind, whilst Sagar has improved with every appearance and is now playing a great game.”

However, he was to win only two England caps, both in 1901.   Continue reading

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I remember when…

Twickenham Stadium Tour Guide John Howard recalls his first trip to Twickenham back in 1964…


Twickenham Stadium c. 1960s

For me, it was the Five Nations in 1964 and England’s match against Wales.  We lived not far from Twickenham in Kew.  My dad used to play for a local club side and on international match days he played in the morning, meaning that he could either watch the game on TV (in black and white) or go along to Twickenham to see the match live.

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Lest We Forget – Dave Gallaher and Albert Stewart, 04/10/1917

At the beginning of October 1917, the Allied Forces were deeply embroiled in attacking the German Army on the Western Front for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres.  This third offensive in the Ypres Salient in West Flanders had started in July 1917 and already both armies had incurred substantial casualties in appalling weather conditions.  When the offensive ended in November, the battle to secure the Passchendaele ridge had exacted its terrible price with over 500,000 Allied and German fatalities in just four months.

Among the many combatants who lost their lives in the battle of Passchendaele were two Irish born international rugby players.  One had played three times for his native country in 1913-14 and had been an accountant by profession in Belfast; the other had emigrated from Ireland at the age of four and became one of the most famous rugby players in the world as captain of the first New Zealand rugby team that toured the United Kingdom and France in 1905-06.  Both these men lost their lives in action in the Ypres Salient on the same day, October 4th 1917. Continue reading

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Under Twickenham’s pitch…

This rusty old horseshoe might not look like much, but it potentially gives us an insight into several aspects of Twickenham’s 100-year history.  This is because nobody really knows for sure how it came to be here at Twickenham, but there are several theories.


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Rupert Inglis – Rector of the Somme

Rupert Inglis

Two days after the failed attack on Guillemont an open air service took place next to the field guns.  The chaplain was Rupert Edward Inglis. Inglis had played for England as a forward in 1886 and had been ordained in 1889.  When war broke out he took it upon himself to encourage the local men of his parish to commit themselves to the service of King and country.  Then, at the age of 51, he himself had enlisted with the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry 1st Battalion.  In a letter to his parishioners in July of 1915 he gave his reasons:

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In A League of their Own

This article is a continuation of Keith Gregson’s ‘The Plight of the Northern Amateur’.


Durham county team, 1905


One of the main arguments for a league system had been that it might improve attendance and, in consequence, income.  This is not an easy area to deal with due a lack of conclusive evidence.  In terms of crowd size, press reports were wont to use positive phrases such as a ‘large attendance’ at the Durham City v Sunderland 1st XV match in October 1907 and ‘a fairly large gathering’ for the Sunderland v Winlaton Vulcans 1st XV match in November.  At the other end of the scale less positive descriptions such as ‘dwindling interest’, ‘meagre attendance’ and ‘moderate company’ were used of other 1st XV league games.  Only on a couple of occasions did actual crowd size appear in press reports.  There was considerable disappointment at a turnout of only 600 for the West Hartlepool v Sunderland 1st XV league match although the crowd of around 3,000 mentioned by a number of sources for the Hartlepool Rovers v Sunderland 1st XV league match was greeted with approval.  However due to frost the latter game was the only one being played in the region on that day which may explain the good turnout.

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