150 Years of Wasps Rugby

By Barney Burnham

How do you go about condensing 150 years of history into a book which will fit onto the average coffee table?  That was the question I began to consider about three years ago, when a few people started suggesting that I might be interested in writing something to mark 150 years of Wasps.

The formal approach came two years ago, at the start of the 2015/16 season. I decided that it would be an honour and privilege which I could not possibly turn down.  I was encouraged and relieved to learn that I would not be working alone.  My co-writer was to be Marcus Williams, an experienced sports journalist with The Times and, more importantly, a long-standing Wasps fan.  He had set things in motion by approaching the club with his ideas for a commemorative book.

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Did Webb Ellis pick up the ball? Who Cares! by Dai Richards

‘Understanding the Origin and Evolution of Sport’ by Dai Richards is out now. Here Dai gives us a taste of what’s inside.

There’s no finer sight than a man who’s picked up pace, running hard with the ball in hand, sweat glistening on his brow.  There’s a hint of a swerve as he heads towards the line and the crowd looks on as he makes one last effort to reach it.  Then he sends the ball down to the batsman at the other end.  Cricket – what a game.  Its distinguishing feature is running with the ball.  Over a day of cricket a fast bowler must cover at least a mile running forward with the ball in hand, and the crowd is there to watch just that. “Rubbish!” I hear you say, and of course, it is.  Cricket is all about scoring runs – if a team scores fewer runs than the opposition then they lose the game, no matter how far they’ve run with the ball. Continue reading

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INTERVIEW – Wade Dooley

Wade Dooley 2012-35

As the years pass, so the distance covered by Wade Dooley for his third try against Wales on a memorable March day in 1992 increases.  “It gets longer every time I tell the story,” he says of the day he won his 50th cap and helped England seal back-to-back Grand Slams.

But Dooley is too honourable a man to allow myth to distort fact.  “What actually happened was that Rob Andrew, who never ordinarily passed back inside, for some reason did on this occasion.  And for some reason I, who never came up in support, found myself taking his flicked pass.  It shocked me. And then I was driven over the line.”

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William Webb Ellis and the Origins of Rugby – a new perspective

On the 29th August 1895 at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, 22 rugby clubs met to discuss the cessation of their membership of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and shortly thereafter proclaimed a new Northern Union.  Initially the game that they would administer would be identical in every respect to that of the RFU with the exception that their players would be permitted monetary compensation for time spent away from the workplace- whilst playing rugby for club, county and country.  Over time the Northern Union altered the rules, reduced the number of players per team and the sport we now know as Rugby League was born.

Around the same time as this act of northern separatism another group of gentlemen were meeting in the town of Rugby. The Old Rugbeian Society (ORS), an informal group of Rugby School alumni, subsequently announced their intention to conduct a private investigation into the origins of rugby football.

Lead In Rugby School

Rugby School

The one major lead that the society possessed was a published account of one particular schoolboy, by the name of William Webb Ellis, taking liberties with the rules in 1823, by picking up the ball and running when convention dictated he do otherwise. Continue reading

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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…

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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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