He took on England one-handed

Michael Moynihan asked Donal Lenihan and Charlie Mulqueen for the history of the Six Nations in 20 objects.

Here are the results, complete with Cambridge maths exams, French dinners and expensive poultry...

1803: Wooden spoon

The wooden spoon was presented originally at the University of Cambridge as a kind of booby prize awarded by the students to the man who achieved the lowest exam marks in mathematics, going back to 1803; Cambridge supplied so many players to early England teams it came to be applied in rugby terms.

1853: Goat

During the Crimean War a goat (right) saved the Royal Regiment for Wales, and ever since the Regiment has always had a goat mascot: that is the animal you see chewing the grass in the Millennium Stadium when the Welsh are playing.

1877: One Hand

Ireland’s Thomas Gisborne Gordon, who played against England in 1877 and gained two further caps the following season, is almost certainly the only player to have played international rugby with one hand. He lost his right hand in a shooting accident as a youngster.

1880s: Monocle

DB Walkington of NIFC was so short sighted he wore a monocle (right) on each of the eight occasions he lined out for Ireland in the 1880s, cleaning and polishing it before he took his goal-kicks. Jacques McCarthy, the Irish rugby historian, noted: “He is as good as he can be on a bright day but in the dark, his sight fails him terribly.”

1905: Kid gloves

British Army officer Basil Maclear was posted to Ireland early in the last century and played for Cork County and Monkstown in Dublin. He earned 11 Irish caps and always wore white kid gloves on the pitch and on international day insisted on two pairs so that he could change at half time. He died in World War I.

1910: Dinner

Joe Anduran won his one and only cap for France against Wales in Swansea in 1910, but there was one obstacle; his wife felt it unthinkable he might miss dinner — the game was fixed for New Year’s Day — and she refused him permission to travel. Joe was first on the cross-channel boat, however, and lined out. Records don’t show how his marriage fared.

1911: Boots and knife

At Twickenham in 1911, France lost late on to a HLV Day conversion. It didn’t amuse the French when they learned Day had played in borrowed boots that had to be sliced with a knife to fit him.

1948: Jersey strips

Cobh native Jack Daly was lucky to be around to celebrate his try against Wales at Ravenhill in 1948 that earned a rare Grand Slam for Ireland. The crowd became so excited at the final whistle they tore the jersey from Daly’s back and it was cut into little pieces as souvenirs. One lady boasted the little piece of green she wore on her clothing at every opportunity was part of Daly’s jersey.

1959: A hyphen

There are a few candidates credited with the quotation, but none better than the late Mick English: the Ireland out-half said after missing an England player, Phil Horrocks-Taylor, “Horrocks went one way, Taylor went the other, and I was left holding the hyphen.”

1974: Constable’s helmet

Michael O’Brien set off the ’70s trend for streaking when he did a circuit at England v France at Twickenham. His feat became famous when the moment O’Brien had his privates covered by a policeman’s helmet was captured.

1979: Marlene Dietrich’s legs

An oration of Mike Gibson contributed the following to the 1979 Ireland-Wales match programme: “His legs are far more important to his country than even those of Marlene Dietrich were to the film industry. A little hairier, perhaps, but a pair of absolute winners.”

1991: Passports

The following back division lined out for Ireland against Wales in 1991 — Jim Staples; Jack Clarke, Brendan Mullin, David Curtis, Simon Geoghegan; Brian Smith, Rob Saunders — none of whom were born in Ireland. Staples, Geoghegan and Saunders in England, Clarke in Kenya; Mullin in Israel, Curtis in Zimbabwe and Smith in Australia. The match ended in an 18-18 draw.

1985: Snow

The weather isn’t always a factor, but in 1985 a flurry caused Ireland-England to be postponed. This is significant because.

1985: O’Donoghue’s pub, Dublin

... the Irish squad repaired to O’Donoghue’s of Merrion Row for a session of team bonding widely credited with the team’s Triple Crown success that season.

1986: Goalposts

Wales kicker Paul Thorburn blasted over a penalty against Scotland from over 64 metres. Still the gold standard when it comes to knocking them over from downtown.

1987: Mittens

Name from the past department: remember Glen Webbe? The lightning-fast Wales wing is still remembered for wearing fingerless gloves.

1980s: Baths

Remembered fondly by the players who had a chance to use them, the old Twickenham stadium had individual baths rather than communal showers. Now removed, those would have been just the ticket nowadays for post-game ice baths.

1988: Calcutta Cup

Edinburgh is many people’s favourite Six Nations venue for nightlife. It found favour with England’s Dean Richards and Scotland’s John Jeffrey when they decided to use the Calcutta Cup as a football up and down Princes Street in the Scottish capital.

1991: Wig

Didier Camberabero, below left, was one of those gifted French out-halves whose appearance changed between the ’80s and the ’90s as he took to wearing a hairpiece.

2007: Cockerel

For many years French supporters brought cockerels to international games and released them onto the field. When Croke Park was used by the IRFU to host the French in 2007 three cockerels were confiscated at the turnstiles and destroyed due to fears of avian flu and other diseases. The cost? €15,000.


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