Jason Leonard – England’s most decorated player

Jason Leonard of England

Jason Leonard of England. Credit: Dave Rogers /Allsport

Early in Jason Leonard’s career he was asked to complete a survey by his club Saracens. He listed ‘tackling, scrummaging and strength’ as his strengths and the same three attributes as his areas for improvement.  Although he described packing down for a scrum as akin to ‘being slammed against a wall, with your feet in the air’, in the category marked weaknesses he wrote ‘not applicable’.

It was this self-belief and stubborn determination that saw him quickly rise to the top of the world game.  Continue reading

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Lest We Forget – John Argentine Campbell (Scotland) 02/12/1917

JA Campbell

Much of the literature surrounding those sportsmen who lost their lives in the 1914-18 War refers to how many of these men died at such a young age.  And yet there were many cases in which men with distinguished sporting records who had already achieved much in their lives outside the field of sport prior to 1914 joined up “to do their bit”.

Many of the men who returned from overseas to enlist in the British army had either been born in Britain or had British ancestry, but they were often leaving their new families behind in their adopted country which makes their sacrifice all the more poignant.

Such a man was John Argentine Campbell, Continue reading

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William Wavell Wakefield – the Water Hen

HMS Vindictive

HMS Vindictive

1st November 1918…

Shortly after laying anchor at Scapa Flow a 20 year-old flying instructor arrived on the HMS Vindictive in advance of a special mission.  As a schoolboy William Wavell Wakefield had assisted his uncle in his efforts to devise and build an aircraft that could take off and land on water.  They succeeded and for some time Wavell practiced flying the ‘Water Hen’ across Lake Windermere.

It was only natural then that when he left school in 1916, he would enlist with the Royal Naval Air School.  His skill as a pilot was quickly recognised and he became a flying instructor at Cranwell, specialising in aerobatics, such as spins, loops and retrieving stalls.  Then, in 1918, a more specialist use was found for his talents. Continue reading

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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.

Wasps blazer badge Continue reading

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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.”

Continue reading

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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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