On Sunday evening during the IRB Awards ceremony in London, the names of the next five inductees into the IRB Hall of Fame as the Class of 2008 will be revealed.
True to the spirit of the Game and Rugby’s unique values as a team sport, the new inductees are individuals, clubs or teams who have left a mark on the world Game, its development and history.
The third induction into the IRB Hall of Fame started early this year with an extensive list of around 30 candidates from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries posted on the IRB website for public debate and voting.
The original 19th century nominees list included two schools from Scotland - Edinburgh Academy and Merchiston Castle, who in 2008 celebrated the 150th anniversary of their first meeting – the longest running fixture in world rugby, as well as the founders of the Sevens game, the Melrose Club and Ned Haig.
The Blackheath Club and Francis M. Campbell, who led the walkout of the rugby clubs from the 1863 meeting of the Football Association, therefore preserving the rugby code, former England captain and RFU President Lennard Stokes and William Percy ‘Tottie’ Carpmael, founder of the Barbarians club, were among the candidates representing England.
Welsh representation included Joseph Arthur Gould of Newport, the Prince of Welsh centres and probably the first superstar of the international game, and former Cardiff and Wales captain Frank Hancock, who is credited with the introduction of the four three-quarter system in the Game.
Finally New Zealand’s nominees were the pioneers of the all black team uniform, the Silver Fern and Haka, the first team to tour the northern hemisphere – the 1888/89 Natives Team and their captain Joe Warbrick.
A shortlist of six candidates – Warbrick and the 1888 Natives Team, Melrose RFC and Ned Haig, WP Carpmael, Edinburgh Academy and Merchiston School, Joseph Arthur Gould and Liverpool St. Helens – emerged at the end of the public vote and two of these will be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2008.
The 20th century list of nominees was led by a strong French contingent, which included alongside ‘Monsieur Rugby’ Jean Prat, the celebrated captain of Lourdes and his country, three other captains of France in Lucien Mias, who led France on their historic tour of South Africa in 1958, the legendary Serge Blanco and the favourite of the public, the renowned Jean-Pierre Rives.
The Irish presence included Dr. Jack Kyle, one of the Game’s greatest ever players, Willie John McBride, captain of the Lions on their victorious tour of South Africa in 1974, Mike Gibson of the North of Ireland RFC, and the 1950 British and Irish Lions - the first Lions tour after the Second World War, skippered by Ireland’s Karl Mullen.
From Wales, the list of candidates included the legendary fly half Cliff Morgan, who mesmerised the world over with his unique skills, Dr. JPR Williams, the full back of the great 1971 and 1974 Lions and the Welsh Grand Slam teams of the 1970s. England, meanwhile, were represented by arguably one of the finest players of his generation in Lord Wavell Wakefield.
The large New Zealand contingent included the skipper of the 1905 All Blacks "Originals" Dave Gallaher, the full back and the mainstay of the formidable 1924 tourists the “Invincibles” George Nepia, former All Black fly half, captain and coach of New Zealand Fred Allen, as well as another modern legend of the New Zealand and world Game Sir Brian Lochore of Wairarapa Bush, who captained New Zealand from1966 until his retirement from international Rugby in 1970.
South America was represented by the greatest Chilean player of all time in Ian Campbell and the legendary captain of Los Pumas, Hugo Porta, who played 57 times at fly half for Argentina – 34 as captain.
The 20th century list ends with two greats from Australia, the one and only Mark Ella, arguably one of the world's finest players, and David Campese, whose brilliance earned him the universal acclaim of the media and public.
Six of the 20th century immortals made it into the shortlist – Campbell, McBride, Gibson, Kyle, Williams, Blanco and Porta – after the public vote, and two of these will be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2008.
Of the five original candidates from the 21st century list only four, the former Welsh Rugby Union and IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh QC, the great centre of the 1990s Philippe Sella, the superstar of RWC 1995 and All Black wing Jonah Lomu, and 2003 Rugby World Cup winning England and Lions captain Martin Johnson reached the shortlist. Only one of them will join the others in the Class of 2008.