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Curious Caps


The biography of Lancelot Slocock on this site mentions the luck of Arnold Alcock, who gained a cap for England in 1906 due to a clerical error – Slocock had actually been intended. His is not the only curious case.

In the early days, teams had to travel to Ireland by boat, and in winter the Irish Sea is notoriously unfriendly.  In 1880 one of the forwards was so ill following the journey that he could not play.  A lucky youngster called Ernest Woodhead, who was English but happened to be already in Ireland studying at Trinity College, Dublin, was drafted in to fill the gap. 

In 1888 England did not play any internationals because of a dispute with the other home countries (which I’ll tell you all about some other time).  Nonetheless, the selectors decided to pick a team  and published it in the Times. Harry Eagles was thus “awarded” his first and only cap.  To make it even more curious, he went on the Lions tour that summer.  The tour lasted 9 months (3 months travelling time) and they played 35 matches.  Harry played in all of them.  Perhaps he was just too tired to play for England after that.

In 1920 Wilfrid Lowry also gained a cap without playing.  He was presented with his cap and photographed with the team before the match, but then the selectors decided to replace him with Harold Day “because of the ground conditions”. This might have been seen as an inspired move, since Day scored all England’s point with a try and a conversion. Unfortunately Wales scored rather more.

Lowry did get to play (on the winning side) against France in the next international, but that was all.  Day gained another 3 caps in later seasons.

The hooker Sam Tucker already had 20 caps by 1930 when Henry Rew was selected ahead of him against Wales, so he might have thought his international career was over.  However Rew dropped out on the morning of the match, and Tucker was flown over from Bristol – probably a first - arriving just before the kick-off.  He played so well that he continued for the rest of the season, though Rew did come back in as his prop. 

Perhaps the most unfortunate missed cap was by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Salut.  In 1969, running up the steps to get on to the pitch, he tripped and injured himself so badly that he had to be replaced. 

It’s a tough game, rugby.

© P Shortell, 2010
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