Cricinfo XV

Rugger buggers

With the rugby World Cup final taking place in Paris this weekend, a look at XV players who were good enough to play both sports to a high standard

Martin Williamson

October 18, 2007

Comments: 36 | Text size: A | A

With the rugby World Cup final taking place in Paris this weekend, we look at XV players who were good enough to play both sports to a high standard



Rob Andrew holds the pose while an undergraduate at Cambridge © Getty Images
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Eric Tindill New Zealand
The ultimate double international ... seven men played cricket and rugby for New Zealand, but Tindill is the only one to have made Test appearances in both sports. Both his debuts came in England - at Twickenham in 1935-36 and at Lord's a year later. As if to underline his versatility, he also refereed a rugby international and umpired a Test. And at almost 97, he is the oldest living Test cricketer and the second-oldest of all time.

Rob Andrew England
Andrew made 71 appearances for England as a fly-half during their 1990s heyday, his most famous moment coming in the 1995 World Cup when his last-gasp drop goal gave England a quarter-final win over Australia. He was also a decent cricketer, good enough to score a hundred for Cambridge against Nottinghamshire. And in 1985, playing for Yorkshire's 2nd XI against Lancashire, his gentle offspin removed a 17-year-old Mike Atherton for a duck. He is currently England's director of rugby.

Andrew Stoddart England
One of only two men to have captained England at both sports - Monkey Hornby was the other - Stoddart didn't start playing cricket seriously until he was 22 and immediately made a mark with an innings of 485 in a day for Hampstead - he had been up all night beforehand playing poker and then raced away from the match to play a few sets of tennis. He could bat, he could bowl, and he was an excellent fielder, and what's more he was the leading centre of his era, playing ten internationals for England. But his life ended in tragedy. Unable to cope with declining physical powers and financial worries, he committed suicide.

Rudi van Vuuren Namibia
van Vuuren is unique in that he represented his country at the 2003 cricket World Cup in South Africa and at the rugby World Cup in Australia later that year. His five matches in cricket's version were mixed affairs - van Vuuren was hammered for a then-record 28 in one over by Darren Lehmann, but he gained some solace in taking 5 for 43 against England. A decent fly-half, he was injured for much of Namibia's rugby campaign, including their 142-0 defeat against the defending champions Australia, but he came on to make history as a late replacement against Romania.

Alistair Hignell England
Hignell won Blues at Cambridge for both rugby and cricket, winning 15 caps for England as a solid full-back. He made his England debut in 1975 in a brutal encounter with Australia at Brisbane - eight days later he was playing for Gloucestershire against Middlesex in Bristol. He continued to juggle cricket, rugby and teaching after university, and subsequently moved into journalism working for the BBC. His England career overlapped with another cricket-playing full-back - Dusty Hare.



Jeff Wilson evades an Italian tackler during the 1999 World Cup © Getty Images
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Jeff Wilson New Zealand
A throwback to an early era where dual internationals were more commonplace. Wilson started as a cricketer, playing four ODIs as a 19-year-old allrounder of considerable promise, before turning his attention to rugby where he became an All Black legend with 44 tries in 60 appearances. On retiring he returned to playing cricket, and after a 12-year gap he returned to play two more ODIs and a one-off Twenty20 for New Zealand against Australia in February and March 2005.

Tuppy Owen-Smith South Africa/England
A man who would have been at home alongside Corinthians such as CB Fry. A good lightweight boxer, he scored 129 for South Africa against England at Headingley in 1929 - including a hundred before lunch on the third day - and he could bowl as well. In 1930 he returned to England as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and shone at cricket and rugby there, so much so that he won ten caps for England as an attacking full-back.

Mike Smith England
An inspirational county and solid England captain, Mike Smith scored three hundreds in three varsity matches for Oxford - breaking a record held by the Nawab of Pataudi - and he captained both the cricket and rugby sides. In his final year he played once for England as outside centre against Wales, but he had a poor game and was not selected again. He wore glasses to play cricket but not, understandably, to play rugby.

Charlie Oliver New Zealand
Oliver first played for the All Blacks in 1928 - the side also included Curly Page, who captained New Zealand in seven Tests - and he would have won a second cap in 1931 but had to withdraw after he was bitten on the hand in a provincial match. In 1935-36 he was vice-captain of the side which toured England. With Tindill, a fellow tourist, he co-wrote The Tour of the Third All Blacks. In 1926-27 he played cricket for New Zealand against the Rest of New Zealand, but he took part in little cricket thereafter.

Martin Donnelly New Zealand/England
Donnelly was one of the first truly great New Zealand cricketers, a supremely talented left-hand batsman of whom it was said that "he had everything as a Test batsman: style and grace; confidence and determination; success and modesty". But for World War II and New Zealand's rare international outings, his career record would have been far more impressive. When at Oxford after the war it was said that people would flock to the Parks when word got round that Donnelly was batting. He also played once for England at fly-half, an unfortunate experience as Ireland hammered them at Lansdowne Road.



Alistair Hignell in action for England in 1978 © Getty Images
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Brian McKechnie New Zealand
McKechnie was the unwilling participant in controversies in both sports. In 1981 he was the batsman on the receiving end of Trevor Chappell's infamous underarm delivery at the end of the third final of the Benson & Hedges World Series between New Zealand and Australia at the MCG. Three years earlier he kicked the penalty that gave the All Blacks a hotly disputed 13-12 win over Wales at Cardiff. The result secured New Zealand's rugby players a "grand slam" of victories against all four of the home nations, but the match would forever be remembered by the Welsh for Andy Hayden's infamous dive out of a line-out. Blurred memories claim that this was the incident that led to the penalty, though history records otherwise.

Clive van Ryneveld South Africa/England
Many considered van Ryneveld the finest South African sportsman of his generation, and had his career in law not increasingly impinged then he might have achieved even more. A double Blue at Oxford, he played all four Five Nations matches for England in 1948-49 while still at university, scoring three tries.

Maurice Turnbull England/Wales
One of Wales' great sportsmen, he represented them at cricket, hockey and rugby, was a regional squash champion and looked set to become an influential administrator. He started playing for Glamorgan as a schoolboy in 1924 and then led them with distinction throughout the 1930s. He was 33 when war broke out in 1939. Five years later he was shot through the head by a sniper in Normandy.

Reggie Schwarz South Africa/England
Schwarz was an ordinary cricketer until he learned the art of googly bowling from Bernard Bosanquet. He developed the art, passed on his knowledge, and for a few years South Africa's legspin trio of Schwarz, Bert Vogler and Aubrey Faulkner were match-winners, especially on matting wickets. Before emigrating to South Africa he had won three caps for England as a centre. He served throughout World War I only to die from Spanish Flu a week after the Armistice.

Otto Nothling Australia
Remarkably for a country that has produced so many multi-talented sportsmen, Nothling is the only man to have played both rugby and football for Australia. A solid batsman and useful seamer who squeezed sport around his medical career, his one Test came in 1928-29, the season he made his only first-class hundred. The man he kept out of the side was Don Bradman, who fulfilled 12th man duties for the only time in his life. Nothing made 0 and 44 but within a year he had given up. His one rugby Test was against the All Blacks in Sydney in 1924.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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Posted by JamesJones on (October 22, 2007, 12:02 GMT)

Liam Botham- Son of Sir Beefy, Useful Hampshire cricketer who played rugby for England at U21 level going on to play for Cardiff and the Newcastle Falcons

Posted by JamesJones on (October 22, 2007, 11:54 GMT)

Nick Mallet, who played for the Springboks and later went on to coach the Springboks (and now Italy) was a useful cricketer who won a Cricket Blue for Oxford. Also Gerbrand Grobler who played both cricket and rugby for the old Northern Transvaal in the 1980/90's. More recently Roly Benade who played for Zimbabwe's U19 cricket team in the U19 Cricket World Cup a few years back, last month played in a rugby international for Zimbabwe's national rugby team, The Sables.

Warren Carne (Zimbabwe)

Posted by MaxB on (October 21, 2007, 22:31 GMT)

It's not true that Otto Nothling was the only Australian dual international. Johnny Taylor played 20 cricket Tests between 1920 and 1926, and won two Rugby caps at fly half in 1922, playing against New Zealand Maori (scoring a try in each match). Another dual international who has been overlooked is Gregor MacGregor, a wicketkeeper in 8 Tests for England (1890-93) who played 13 Rugby internationals for Scotland between 1889 and 1896.

Posted by seanipops on (October 21, 2007, 21:09 GMT)

Simon Halliday who played centre and wing for both Bath and England in the late 80's/early 90's also has a FC hundred to his name.

Posted by Christoph on (October 21, 2007, 15:05 GMT)

Hershelle Gibbs was an astounding schoolboy talent. He played flyhalf for SA Schools. I saw him in the final of the Craven Week running the Hershelle Gibbs show. He scored what felt like 30 points against a monster Blue Bulls side. He was teasing the opposing flankers through holding the ball at them while running full pace. At one stage he received the ball behind his back in his own half. He did a full 360 degree turn and dropped the ball over, from his own half! He broke the line at will in scoring three individual tries. He never played against the All Blacks though, as he stopped playing rugby in 1993. Hansie Cronje played eight man for Free State schools and Darryll Cullinan played flyhalf for SA Universities.

Posted by choc56 on (October 21, 2007, 14:26 GMT)

From Sri Lanka, the one that springs to mind is Mahesa Rodrigo, who - get this - CAPTAINED BOTH national teams in cricket and rugby back in the forties. In his only appearance against Jeff Stollemeyer's West Indies side, he carried his bat out for 135 (he was also the keeper), prompting Stollemeyer to remark "that man Rodrigo - not only does he look like us, he bats better than the best of us!". Rodrigo was an exceptional scrum-half and also coached his club and school sides for many years after his retirement.

Another outstanding sportsman was Jagath Fernando of Royal College, who captained the school at both sports and had a century before lunch (on way to a record 160) at the Annual Royal-St Thomas' College fixture, which is the second oldest unbroken cricket series in the world. He played for the Sri Lanka Schools team and played Premier Division cricket for a few years, but in rugby, as a phenomenal fly-half, he went on to captain the country (if I'm not mistaken).

Posted by jfgc on (October 20, 2007, 12:42 GMT)

Peter Cranmer.After St Edwards School Oxford played Rugby for England.Also Captain of Cricket for Warwickshire. Died a few years ago.

Posted by jimbrady on (October 20, 2007, 9:04 GMT)

I found the following via google as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Walker_(Australian_sportsman)

Played Rugby tests for Australia and was in the Australian Cricket Tourists to South Africa in 1949/50 (but never played a Test).

Posted by jimbrady on (October 20, 2007, 8:33 GMT)

Ray Lindwall? (He played Rugby League though.) His partner Keith Miller was a top Australian Rules footballer as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Lindwall

Posted by gasman on (October 20, 2007, 5:42 GMT)

Tony Harris SA Rugby 5 tests vs N Z 1937 [2] vs Brit Isles [3] in 1938.SA Cricket 3 caps 1947 to 1949.Played 55 first class games scoring over 3000 runs

Do you know of other sportsmen who played both rugby and cricket?
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