The game of 111 lineouts and the subsequent ‘kicking to touch’ rule change in rugby

Honiton rugby action

Honiton rugby action - Credit: Archant

Here we continue our rugby memories from Terry O’Brien of Sidmouth RC

Selecting a man-of-the-match is a common practice these days, writes Terry O’Brien.

In a team game like rugby, this is not straightforward, and a matter of opinion rather based on hard facts.

Certainly, a player, particularly a fly half or scrum half, can have a significant influence on the course a game takes and to some extent the outcome, but a player totally dominating proceedings is as rare as hens’ teeth.

One infamous example occurred in the Scotland versus Wales match in 1963.

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The Welsh scrum half and captain Clive Rowlands decided that his forwards were the key to winning and kicked the cover off the ball up the touchline in game which included 111 lineouts and little else.

His fly half David Watkins received only two passes. Rowlands only other contribution was a drop goal in a 6-0 victory.

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This match would lead to the change in the laws which stopped kicking direct into touch outside the 22-metre line.

In 1987, I joined the Devon RFU committee with responsibility for the Under-21 team, which would lead to me witnessing a similar, but more entertaining one man show.

In the time before professional rugby and academies, age grade rugby was the main route up the performance ladder and working with talented young players was enjoyable and rewarding.

On Sunday, April 16, 1989 Devon played Warwickshire in the semi-final of the county Under 21 championships at Coundon Road, Coventry.

The game was dominated by the Warwickshire captain, not a half back but a flanker.

He never seemed to be more than a few metres from the ball. In defence, he harried the Devon backline relentlessly.

When his side were in possession, he was on the ball dictating when and how it would be distributed and used.

At one point, his fly half was caught behind the gain line.

He ran back, ripped the ball away and set off on a run which would lead to a try.

He was also involved in his teams other three tries, scoring one himself. It was a truly mesmerising performance.

In the bar after the game, the general opinion was that he would be too small to ever represent England.

Neil Back went on to make 61 appearances for his country and go on three British Lions tours, playing in five Test Matches. And, of course, was a World Cup winner.

Even had this been a more high-profile game, his exploits would have been eclipsed in the sporting headlines by the Hillsborough disaster of the previous day.

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