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Bernard Gadney

Bernard Gadney

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BornOxford ,16 July 1909
PositionScrum Half
Internationals14 caps between 1932 and 1938
Inducted18 November 2000

Finally a myth is exploded by a legend. Before England recorded a historic victory over the All Blacks in 1936 – the first time New Zealand had been beaten in a test in England, let alone Twickenham – it had been said that the triumphant captain Bernard Gadney and his team would not have cared if they had lost.

“The idea that we did not care if we lost is a load of rubbish,” insists Gadney, who, after a lifetime of devotion to the game, first as a player with, among others, Leicester and the Barbarians, then as a committee member fighting for schools rugby, has become the inaugural brick in the Wall of Fame at Twickenham.

“We had to be civil in defeat. One should be able to have a beer with the opposition and congratulate them on their success.
“But people who said I did not care whether we won or lost clearly did not know me. As it was we won and I can tell you we were all chuffed.
“The amazing thing was our fullback was never called on to make a single tackle throughout the match. The New Zealanders never got that far. That is testimony to the hard work our marvellous pack and the rest of the team put in.”

Gadney, did have a little help from one of his closest friends, Prince Alexander Obolensky. “obo scored two great tries against the All Blacks,” recalls Gadney, who captained the side from scrum-half. “He ran like a stag. But without the fantastic effort of the forwards in the first place, the backs would not have got the ball.”
The Prince died in a flying training accident during the war, but Gadney, who went on to win 14 England caps, says: “I still visit his grave in Suffolk as often as I can, and I always try to go on Remembrance Day.”

It is typical of Gadney that he should be reluctant to single out individuals for especial mention. He sounded shocked when informed of his elevation to Wall of Fame status.
“I do not think I am worthy of that”, he said. “There are others far more deserving.”
He is far prouder of the fact that it was solely due to his promptings after the Second World War that ERIC was set up, the club for former England internationals, which has boasted its own room at Twickenham since the late 1940s.
But the essence of the Wall of Fame, which stands inside the Museum of Rugby at Twickenham, is the brainchild of the museum’s curator, Jed Smith, and it is not restricted to Englishmen.

This is to be an all-embracing honour which over the years will underline rugby union’s global appeal. One essential criterion for induction is that each person must have made some sort of impact at Twickenham. And Gadney is actually first equal as the inaugural nominee. Accompanying him is Nick Farr-Jones, who as captain of Australia lifted the 1991 Rugby World Cup at headquarters.

Smith is going to have his work cut out deciding on future nominees. There will be two each time a test is played at Twickenham but it should prove rewarding in itself and a lasting tribute to the many who have made the game of rugby union great.

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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