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100 years of Twickenham - the 1910s

26 January 2010

In the first of a series of extracts from the book 100 years of Twickenham and the five/six nations we look at the highlights from the 1910s.

Mick Cleary, rugby correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, provides the narrative, while leading rugby historian and statistician Chris Rhys provides an authoritative record of every game played in each decade of the competition plus additional records and tables. The book is available to order online from www.RFUDirect.com.

The 1910s

The French rugby team of 1911

Photo: RFU archive

France’s arrival into the ranks in 1910 triggered the start of something special, helping to create a European carnival of rugby that has stood the test of time and has caused millions of brain cells to be destroyed in the annual quest to forge new friendships round the great capital cities. France in those early days also served to boost a team’s statistical benefits.

They were the whipping boys of the championship, securing only one win in five seasons (1910–14), against Scotland (16-15) at Stade Colombes in 1911. France conceded 95 tries over the five seasons up to the outbreak of World War I, and shipped 415 points. But no one questioned their right to be there. No one wanted to turn back the clock. Les Français étaient arrivés.

Records and rarities

Adverts from a 1910's Twickenham matchday program

Photo: RFU archive

Wales had come into the decade on the back of two successive Home Nations Grand Slams and it was no surprise that they should take advantage of the callowness of the French team to record two championship landmarks in the 1910 season – 88 points and 21 tries. The points total stood until 1976; the try total remained unsurpassed until England’s 29-score haul in 2001.

If there were points aplenty in games featuring France, there was the rarity of a 0-0 draw between Ireland and England at Twickenham. How different the mood of the crowd that February day from the one that had attended England’s opening game of the championship at the stadium a month earlier. Freddie Chapman had scored from the kick-off in what was the first international held at Twickenham, the land on which the ground was built having been acquired by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) three years earlier, in 1907, for just less than £5573.

England took the inaugural Five Nations Championship, although there was nothing as gaudy as a trophy in sight. Such brash things did not appear on the scene until the 1990s. The Calcutta Cup was the only bauble on offer and it went to England following their 14-5 victory at Inverleith.