Want to be part of Twickenham history?

The World Rugby Museum and Twickenham Stadium Tours have been operating since 1996 and we are looking for more volunteers to join our elite team of Tour Guides.

Our Tour Guides come from all walks of life and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience along with them.

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Here’s what some of them have to say…

Phil describes guiding as “a great opportunity to share the wonderful culture of rugby…and the moving history of the stadium and the game”. He enjoys meeting visitors from around the world and being part of a team of rugby enthusiasts.

Victoria loves working at the stadium because “you never know who is going to turn up on your tours.” Whilst taking a group of young players from New Zealand on a stadium tour recently she met a lad whose parents had included ‘Leicester’, ‘Wales’ and ‘Twickenham’ in his full name. ”It’s fair to say his father was a proper rugby fan. And to think that this boy could play for the All Blacks one day.”

Chris’s favourite tour guiding memory is of taking a French school around the stadium. “A young boy was carrying a small leather case with him and kept telling me it was a surprise. At pitchside at the end of the tour, he took a bugle out of the case and played the Marseillaise, the school joining in with the words. A very special moment! Even though I have given hundreds of tours, I still get a special buzz taking people around this wonderful stadium and seeing the pleasure they experience”.

For more information on becoming a volunteer Twickenham Stadium Tour Guide, please visit our website.


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Lest We Forget – Bryn Lewis (Wales) 2 April 1917

Bryn Lewis 001 (4)

Brinley Richard Lewis was a speedy wing three-quarter of great skill who, for a variety of reasons, was never able to demonstrate his talents to the full at international level.  He was highly regarded by English critics, some of whom were bewildered that Wales didn’t make more use of him.

“He had splendid hands, true football pace, pluck, neat kicking ability … and he knew the game.  He was the best wing of his day [yet] could boast only a couple of international caps”, wrote one.

Injuries and the coming of war restricted his international appearances and, because he played much of his best rugby for Cambridge University and occasionally London Welsh, many of his outstanding performances took place out of the sight of Welsh selectors.

Born in the Swansea Valley at Pontardawe in 1891, “Bryn” was not unknown, however, in Wales.  Even at fourteen, he was already making headlines.  He “played brilliantly” with the ball in hand when Wales defeated the English Schools at Leicester in 1905.

After captaining Swansea Grammar School, Bryn played for Pontardawe before going up to Trinity Hall Cambridge in 1909.  There he won the first of his three Blues on the wing in December 1909.  Unfortunately, Oxford were much stronger during this period and Bryn was on the losing side on each occasion.  Although in 1910, his inspirational play almost gave Cambridge an unexpected victory.  Just after half time, Bryn scored his second try to put his side into an 18-13 lead.  However, he was then controversially tackled and badly injured while in touch.  He took no further part in the game.  Most observers agreed that the loss of Bryn, who was playing splendidly, was the turning point of the match.  Reduced to fourteen, Cambridge struggled to defend against the Oxford attack and the peerless Ronnie Poulton struck twice, his second try sealing a 23-18 last minute victory.

Even though Oxford comfortably won the 1911 Varsity match by 19 points, Bryn was singled out for praise by the press for his “brilliant form”.  He “alone grasped what was wanted in attack”.  He made some good runs, cross kicked cleverly but “was handicapped by the poor play of his fellow backs”.  In fact, Bryn had been demonstrating his blistering pace for Cambridge all season and he was now seriously being talked about as a future international.  Had he been playing regularly for Swansea, one Welsh journalist believed, he would certainly have been capped earlier; but he was forced to wait until the final international of 1911-12 before being given his chance against Ireland in Belfast.

However, Wales selected a very inexperienced side which played poorly, particularly in the backs, who squandered many scoring opportunities.  Bryn had a disappointing game.  He seemed to be over anxious and he failed to produce anything like his Cambridge form.  The 12-5 defeat was the first time in thirteen years that Wales lost two Championship matches in a season: selectors, press and Welsh public were not too pleased.

Bryn returned to Cambridge for a fourth year, but a late injury cost him a fourth Blue in 1912, when ironically Cambridge won for the first time in seven years.  Previously, Bryn had turned out for Swansea during his vacations, but for the rest of 1912-13, he was now able to play regularly in Wales for the All Whites.  This was a good time to be a member of the Swansea team, which went on to win the Welsh Club Championship that season.  Such was the quality of his performances for the club that the selectors could not continue to overlook him and he was again picked for the final game of the season against Ireland.  This time there was to be a complete turnaround in his fortunes.  Playing with much greater self-assurance, he had a magnificent game.  In a tense match, Wales just managed to hang on to win by 16-13.  Bryn had a big hand in the victory, running with great confidence, defending courageously and contributing two of the three Welsh tries, one from half-way. He was the best three-quarter on the field.

Further honours followed over Easter 1913 when Bryn became the first Swansea player to represent the Barbarians.  However, persistent injuries affected his play for much of the crucial part of 1913-14 and these ruled him out of consideration for further caps that season.  He did eventually recover his old form but events unfolding in Europe would deny Bryn any chance of playing for Wales again.

He enlisted early in the war and, while still in training, he was selected for the Welsh XV which faced the Barbarians at Cardiff in April 1915.  Wales fielded a strong side, but one lacking in match fitness.  The Barbarians, captained by Edgar Mobbs, won comfortably by 26-10, but Bryn was one of the few Welsh players to come out of the game with his reputation intact.  A few weeks later, he was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery.

He served on the Western Front with the 38th (Welsh) Division throughout 1916 and survived the Battle of Mametz Wood, which took the lives of fellow Welsh internationals Johnny Williams and Dick Thomas.  By August 1916, Bryn had been promoted to major and was commanding a six-gun battery.  In April 1917, the Welsh Division were holding part of the line in the Ypres Salient.  On the morning of the 2thApril, Bryn was taking his breakfast behind the gun lines when he was killed by a high velocity shell.

His brigade commander later wrote: “he was such a splendid fellow … he was beloved by officers and men alike … he had great strength of character and was bound always to do well.”

Brinley Richard Lewis is buried in Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, near Boesinghe, Belgium.call-them-to-remembrance

About the Author: Gwyn Prescott is a Cardiff based rugby historian and writer. His latest book ‘Call Them to Remembrance’: The Welsh Rugby Internationals who Died in the Great War is available through publishers St. David’s Press and from Amazon.


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Rugby’s Greatest Upsets Part 4 – France v New Zealand, 1999

With the advent of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 rugby union had found its greatest stage and greatest potential for upsets.  The shift away from test-rugby allowed the relative minnows of the global game their shot at the big fish.  But one of the greatest upsets in the tournament’s history featured two international heavyweights.

Danny Grewcock of England

Photo Credit: Getty

New Zealand go into most Rugby World Cups as favourites.  They have occupied first place in the world rankings for longer than any other side and are the only nation in the world to hold a positive win record against every rival. 1999 was no different.

Featuring the likes of Reuben Thorne, Taine Randall, Chris Cullen, Tana Umaga and the irrepressible Jonah Lomu on the wing, the All Blacks had crushed England and Scotland on their way to the semi-finals.

Christophe Dominici and Rolando Martin

Photo Credit: Getty

France, for their part, had seen off Argentina on their way to the semis and had a strong side that included Abdelatif Benazzi, Christophe Laimaison and was led by Raphael Ibanez.

Although hosted by Wales, both the tournament semi-finals would take place at Twickenham in front of a largely English crowd.  New Zealand were strong favourites but France were well respected and a win for them would not have presented an upset great enough to make this list were it not for the manner in which it unfolded.

A tightly contested first half was lit up by a super-human drive for the try line by Jonah Lomu that, coupled with a later penalty, gave New Zealand a 17-10 half-time lead.  In a performance reminiscent of his semi-final demolition job on England four years earlier Lomu scored another thundering try early in the second half to push his side into a 2
4-10 lead.

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Photo Credit: Getty

At this stage the neutral observer, of which there were many in the largely English crowd, could have been forgiven for assuming that the game was as good as over.  That, however, would be to seriously underestimate the spirit and resolve of the French side and so one of game’s great upsets began to take shape.

Two drop-goals, two penalties and a converted try from an energised fly-half Lamaison saw the French surge into the lead.  Realising that the game was afoot, the watching Twickenham faithful threw their support behind the French.

Stunned by the sudden turnaround the All Blacks appeared as casual observers at the scene of an unfolding catastrophe.  A glut of New Zealand substitutions followed but it was les Bleus that scored again and then again!  With 78 minutes gone France had scored 33 unanswered points and led by 43-24.

The All Blacks finally rallied with a try but it was too late.  The final score was 43-31 to France.

French team celebrate

Photo Credit: Getty


Read Rugby’s Greatest Upsets Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.


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Santa Clara v Stanford, 1916

The University of California had taken up rugby in 1906, along with Stanford University, California’s top athletic and academic rival.  It was to be the start of a great rugby rivalry.  Both teams were strong.  In twelve seasons of rugby Stanford went undefeated three times and posted a record of 94 wins, 20 losses, and three draws.  California won games too but hadn’t won many games against Stanford since 1906.

The ‘Big Game’ rivalry between California and Stanford would stop for three seasons during the war years of 1915, 1916 and 1917 but Stanford at least continued to play, with Santa Clara College taking California’s place for three successive seasons.

Santa Clara College was a Jesuit school having the name of the town in which it was located, and also the site of an old Spanish-colonial mission, a dozen miles south of Palo Alto and Stanford.  Stanford, sometimes known as the ‘Harvard of the West’, was co-ed and had a few thousand students.

The match was played at Ewing Field in San Francisco, home to the San Francisco Seals Baseball team, in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000.  At the time it was the largest venue for such an important intercollegiate rugby match in the Bay Area.  Despite losing the previous year Santa Clara rose to the occasion and won the match by 28 points to 5, inflicting on Stanford their first loss since 1913.  They went on to finish the season undefeated and could legitimately claim to have the best rugby team in America.

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In the photo one can actually make out the baseball infield in the background.  On the far right of the photo in the white shirt is Santa Clara’s captain, Rudy Scholz, class of 1918, the team’s scrum half.  He and five other members of this team would eventually be selected for the American team that won gold at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp.

After graduation in the spring of 1918, Scholz would be commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Army after military training that summer, but the Great War ended as he waited to be posted to France.  He returned to Santa Clara to study law, playing in 1919 on the school’s reconstituted American football team at quarterback.  He would continue to play rugby and American football with the Olympic Club of San Francisco following his law school studies, and became an attorney.  He finally saw active service in Okinawa during World War Two, by then a major in the Army reserves.  In later in life he became a player for the California Bald Eagles Rugby Club, a veterans side, and was in his early 80s when he played in his last game, in 1978, before dying of cancer in 1981 at the age of 85.

Stanford, wearing the dark shirts, actually cardinal red, had its share of players on the Olympic team of 1920 and Danny Carroll, a member of the Australia team that won gold at the 1908 Olympics in London.


About the author: Larry Freitas is a former rugby player and a referee in the Northern California Rugby Union Referee Society.  He started his rugby career as a freshman student (class of 1976) at Santa Clara University in 1973. After his university studies he played for the Santa Cruz Rebels and then after “retirement” from club rugby, for the California Bald Eagles Club, a veterans over 40 side.  He is a retired History and English teacher living in the Monterey Bay Area in Aptos, California. 


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Jonah Lomu: The day he announced himself to the World

lomu-actionThe 1995 Rugby World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand will always be remembered for Jonah Lomu’s outstanding man of the match performance. Lomu scored four ruthless tries in the semi-final, swatting away the English defence like flies.

England captain Will Carling perhaps best summed up how it felt to play against Lomu: “I am hoping not to come across him again. He is a freak and the sooner he goes away the better.”  Lomu’s performance was heralded around the world with England coach Jack Rowell commenting “Lomu is a phenomenon. He plays a different game.”

For many observers Lomu had shown the direction the game would take in the professional era with an emphasis on bigger and faster players. At the time there were fears that Lomu would depart Rugby Union to play the already professional code of Rugby League. However, a month after the final, on 26th August 1995, the IRB ushered in the professional era by repealing amateur regulations.

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Jonah with Hal Sever and Tommy Kemp at the World Rugby Museum

Despite losing the final to South Africa the All Blacks remained one of the most dominant sides of the newly professional era and Lomu went on to make 63 Caps scoring 37 international tries. To this day he remains the Rugby World Cup’s joint top try Scorer, tied with Bryan Habana on 15 tries.  This is remarkable, given that Lomu suffered from a rare kidney disease, which meant he was unable to train regularly.

As for England, who were Grand Slam winners in 1995, several players such as Martin Johnson and Jason Leonard who would go on to play a leading role in helping England win the World Cup 8 years later in 2003.

Jonah Lomu introduced himself to the world against England in 1995 in a way that has not been and, with all likelihood, will never be repeated.

About the Author – Will Holmes, 19, is studying History at the University of Exeter and plays rugby for various local clubs. He undertook a placement week with the World Rugby Museum as part of a Public History module in 2016.


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The World Rugby Museum is on the move…

Mather Image 1The World Rugby Museum is now closed ahead of its relocation from the East Stand to the South Stand of Twickenham Stadium. The move will necessitate a complete overhaul and redevelopment of the galleries. Curator Phil McGowan is optimistic that this will be a significant opportunity for the museum to improve its content and modernise its interpretive methods.

The museum began life as the Museum of Rugby in 1996 before rebranding as the World Rugby Museum in 2008. Its collection, that includes the RFU collection and Harry Langton rugby collection, has increased significantly since 1996 and the move represents an opportunity to better tell the true story of rugby from around the world.

Early estimations are that the new gallery will feature more than three times as many objects as it does currently and cover iconic teams from around the world and from all eras, including the 1924 New Zealand side, the 1900s Wales teams, the 1971 and 1974 British and Irish Lions sides and 2003 England team to name just a few.

Work on the new museum will commence once the 2017 6-Nations is complete and is scheduled for completion in the winter of 2017-18. Twickenham Stadium Tours and ‘From the Vaults’ online blog will continue during the interim.

“The cutting edge new museum will be bigger, better, brighter, louder and more interactive than ever before.  It will house the world’s most prestigious collection of rugby memorabilia. It will include commentary, film and match-footage from the most iconic moments, memorable tours and greatest players in the history of what is the world’s most dramatic team sport.

It will include purpose built events, education and research facilities and invite visitors to engage in the game with exciting hands-on interactive exhibits” – Phil McGowan, Curator

 

 

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In 1877 the RFU were sent a letter…

In Calcutta on the 25th of December 1872, a game of rugby was played between a team of ex-pats from England and a mixed team of Scots, Irish and Welsh.  The match proved a success and provided the impetus for the Calcutta Football Club to be formed in January 1873.

Four years later the Calcutta Club sadly folded in 1877 and the decision was made to melt the remaining 270 silver rupee coins from the Club’s bank account to create the Calcutta Cup.  Captain, Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Calcutta Football Club, G. A. James Rothney highlights this in his letter to the Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Rugby Football Union, H. I. Graham Esq. on the 20th of December 1877.calcutta-letter

 ‘I regret to say the Calcutta Football Club has ceased to exist, it being now found quite impossible to get sufficient men together to play even a scratch game…This being the case I proposed at a Meeting of the few remaining Members of the Club held on Tuesday last the 18th inst. as the best means of doing some lasting good for the cause of Rugby Football & as a slight memento of the Calcutta Club, that the Funds remaining to the credit of the Club should be devoted to the purchase of a Challenge Cup & presented to the Rugby Union.’

The letter from Rothney provides an insight into the development of rugby throughout the world.  Various reasons were given for the decline in popularity of rugby in Calcutta.  Rothney himself explains the constraints in his correspondence to Graham, including, ‘that many of the old members who started the club in 1872, and kept it going, have become dispersed over India or gone home…(and) the great & rapid development of Polo has proved a fatal blow to Football here; it being considered (as it requires no training or condition) so much more suitable for the climate.’  In addition to these reasons, it has been suggested that there was declining interest in the club after the cessation of the accompanying free bar, but no such mention was made by Rothney.

For the use of the cup, Rothney suggested that it could ‘be competed for annually in the same way as the Association Cup;’ however, citing the potential difficulty of organising all clubs to participate, the RFU accepted the trophy as a challenge cup for international use.  The Calcutta Club subsequently presented the trophy to the Rugby Football Union in 1878, making it the oldest trophy in international rugby.

These were very early days for international rugby, with only two other countries playing rugby against England at the time – Scotland and Ireland.  Due to Ireland’s sub-par performance up to 1877, with five defeats and no points scored in five games, the RFU decided to use the cup for their annual encounter with Scotland.  A silver plaque on the base reads: ‘The Calcutta Cup Presented to the Rugby Football Union by the Calcutta Football Club as an international challenge cup to be played for annually by England & Scotland 1878.’

ccThe final result from the Calcutta Club was a large silver loving cup with a lid.  It is heavily engraved in an artistic pattern, with three handles in the shape of king cobra snakes.  Standing proudly on top of the lid is a small elephant.  Rothney describes the cup in a letter dated 31st of October, 1878, ‘the Cobras are carefully copied from actual specimens and the elephant is…of the Vice Roy’s stock. The cup is of pure silver 270 rupees having been melted down for its manufacture…its exact weight being now 265 3/4 rupees.’   The Cup now sits on a two-piece wooden base, which has attached to it numerous silver plaques, each engraved with the dates and results of matches the Cup has been played for.

The first Calcutta Cup match was played at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, on 10 March 1879, in front of a crowd of 10,000 spectators.  The trophy was not awarded however as the game ended a draw, with both sides scoring a goal.  The following year England became the first team to win the trophy when they defeated Scotland by two goals to one at Whalley Range, Manchester.  To this day, the Calcutta Cup is awarded to the victors of the England v Scotland match during the Six Nations tournament.


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