Boxing Day rugby has been part and parcel of the Christmas holiday period for many a year but not a single test match has been played on the big day itself.
According to renowned rugby historian John Griffiths, the nearest test to 25 December was in 1926 when France awarded caps for a match against New Zealand Maori on Boxing Day.
However, that’s not to say 25 December is totally virgin territory when it comes to rugby as over 60 capped players celebrate, or celebrated, their birthday at that point in the calendar.
You need look no further than the very first international, between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh in March 1871, to unearth the first example.
Charles William Sherrard was one of the many Rugby School-educated players in that first England squad of 20; he was a serving army officer playing for Blackheath when capped as a forward.
Some sources give his year of birth as 1849 but his service records state that he was born in London on 25 December, 1848.
Thomas Blatherwick was born in Canada on Christmas Day the following decade and was a member of the first England team to play against Ireland at the old Lansdowne Road.
Moving on a generation, James “Maffer” Davey was born on Christmas Day in 1880. He was a member of the rugby team which won the silver medal at the 1908 Summer Olympics, when his home county of Cornwall represented Great Britain losing to Australia in the final.
Sydney-born Wallaby Huck Finlay went on to play a key role in two memorable series – the 3-0 sweep of New Zealand at home in 1929 and the one-off test win over the British and Irish Lions in 1930. He was born on 25 December, 1903.
One player had a name to match the event – Welshman Christmas Davies, who was better known by his second name – Howard.
Davies was one of only four men to be capped in official matches for Wales before and after the Second World War, succeeding the great Vivian Jenkins as full-back for the match against Scotland in February 1939.
One-Cap Winter Wonders
France number eight, Noël Sicart, born on Christmas Day in 1899, was another whose name has a festive ring to it. Sicart won his only cap for Les Bleus against Ireland in 1925.
Two more so-called ‘One Cap Wonders’ born on Christmas Day are South Africa’s Paul Visser, who was on the losing side against Australia in 1933, and current England U20 head coach Mark Mapletoft, who was capped by his country against Argentina in 1997.
Donald Cameron of Scotland and Jan Pickard of South Africa were both born on Christmas Day 1927, but they were not the only ones to share the same birthday.
Sam Strahan, the All Black second-row, was born on Christmas Day 1944, as was Nigel Starmer-Smith, the England fly-half who became one of the ‘voices of rugby’ for many decades as an esteemed broadcaster, in sevens and 15s.
Two years earlier, second row Alain Plantefol was born on Christmas Day and while his test career was relatively brief, he holds the distinction of being a member of France’s first ever Grand Slam-winning team in 1968.
Rugby World Cup pioneers
Born on Christmas Day in 1962, goal-kicking centre Eiji Kutsuki played in the first two Rugby World Cups for Japan, while Michael Martin did likewise for Zimbabwe in the second row. England centre Kevin Simms played in the first tournament in 1987.
Another player with a Christmas day birthday with Rugby World Cup connections is Diego Zarzosa Peña. The man from Valladolid won 44 caps for Spain and played in Los Leones’ debut Rugby World Cup match against Uruguay in 1999.
One of the players who played in Romania’s famous 15-8 win over Wales in 1988 was born on Christmas Day in 1965: loose forward Traian Oroian. From the same era is Scotland’s 1990 Grand Slam-winning centre, Sean Lineen, while Rowan Shepherd became one of the next generation of Christmas Day Scots to be capped.
Current Christmas generation
There are a number of current players for whom 25 December is a special day for more than one reason, including long-serving Maltese international Matthew Camilleri and Trinidad and Tobago’s Joseph Quashie.
Springbok Women’s Sevens captain Zintle Mpupha and Scotland wing Liz Musgrove are two examples of women’s players to be born on Christmas Day, while Chryss Viliko, who turns 23 today, is the most recent new cap in this category having made her Black Ferns debut just three months ago.
University of Bristol student Jenna De Vera is a strong contender to become the next addition to the list.
The Swansea-born Wales Women’s U20 captain and centre, who turns 20 on Christmas Day, was named in the senior Wales squad for the 2023 Women’s Six Nations and while still uncapped, is tipped for a full debut before too long.