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Recollections from the 1940s

  • H. Tanner 1936-37

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    In 1948 when the Barbarians were approached to play an extra game against the Australian Touring Team, it must have been a difficult decision to take.

    The reason put forward for the extra game was that touring expenses had increased and the Australians expressed a wish to go home via Canada and play in Canada.

    This last reason might have been the deciding factor in the decision making. The next question to be answered was the venue - where the game should be played. This was a fund raising exercise and apparently Cardiff was considered the place which would guarantee a "full house".

    When these details had been agreed a team had to be selected and here again the conservative approach became apparent. It was emphasised that it had to be a Barbarian Team and not one representing the U.K. We even held a selection meeting with those not being able to be present physically - they were not denied their "rights", as if that was at all possible knowing the characters l Absentees were allowed to write in their teams - what confusion!

    But, in spite of everything, a team was selected, but, once again, there was another surprise in store - a practice session was held on the Friday afternoon - unheard of in the history of the Barbarians. Anyone who has been associated with the Barbarians would have realised that with players old and new, committee and camp followers drawn from the four countries, the permutations of theories and tactics were unlimited.

    <Esplanade Hotel Penarth

    Esplanade Hotel Penarth, the 'headquarters'
    of the Barbarian tour of South Wales intil 1971>

    One ploy which stands out was that because of Micky Steele-Bodgers' lack of height, he should position himself in front of the lineout and not at the back. Neither the player or I was impressed and the normal positioning was adopted. There was great conjecture before the game as to whether the Barbarians would adopt their normal style of play or "tighten it up". Again there was no agreement between Trevor Allan, who captained Australia in the absence of Bill McLean or myself as to the type of game we would play.

    The result was a thoroughly enjoyable match with plenty of movement - to illustrate, Tommy Kemp complained bitterly in the first half when a Barbarian kicked for touch. The game itself has been reported and the result was a victory to the Barbarians by 9 points to 6 points, but how we heaved a sigh of relief when the final whistle went.