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1927–28 Waratahs tour of the British Isles, France and Canada

1927–28 Waratahs tour of the British Isles, France and Canada

Between July 1927 and March 1928 the New South Wales Waratahs, the top Australian representative rugby union side of the time, conducted a world tour encompassing Ceylon, Britain, France and Canada on which they played five Tests and twenty-six minor tour matches.

The Queensland Rugby Union had collapsed in 1919 and would not be reborn until 1929 leaving the New South Wales Rugby Union to administer the game in Australia at the national representative level. Just prior to the start of the Australian 1927 season an invitation from the International Rugby Board arrived in Sydney requesting a New South Wales side tour Great Britain to play Tests against the Home Nations.

In 1986 the Australian Rugby Union decreed the five full-internationals played on the tour as official Test matches.

1927–28 Waratahs tour of the British Isles, France and Canada
Tour captain(s)Johnnie Wallace
Test match

The squad and its captain

A squad of twenty-nine players was selected comprising twenty-eight New South Welshmen and one Queenslander in the great fly-half Tom Lawton, Snr who had been forced to come to Sydney to continue his career due to the absence of rugby in Brisbane. The side was captained by Arthur Cooper "Johnnie" Wallace who from Sydney University had earnt a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in 1922 and whilst there had represented for Scotland in nine Tests between 1923 and 1926.

The selection of Wallace as captain is referred to in the Howell reference as "a masterstoke". He was well known in Britain through his Oxford and Scotland association, was an experienced and naturally gifted player, a strong tactician and a great influence on the younger players. On the nine-month tour, the Australians won 24, lost 5 and drew 2 of the matches they played and returned having established an international reputation for playing fair and attacking rugby.

Tour itinerary

The squad left Sydney by train on 22 July 1927 bound for Melbourne. They played a game on the afternoon of their arrival in Melbourne against a Victorian invitation XV which was won 19–9. They set off in the Ormonde from Melbourne on 26 July for Adelaide where they had a one-day stop.

By 10 August the Ormonde had arrived in Colombo where they were the guests of the Colombo Rugby Union and the tourists played that day against an All Ceylon XV in front of a crowd of 5,000 spectators. They set sail from Ceylon on 11 August. The Ormonde passed through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Messina and a disembarkation was made at Naples to enable a visit to Pompeii. Another stop was made at Toulon before arriving at Gibraltar on 28 August and Plymouth by month's end.

The squad had two weeks preparation on land at Teignmouth in Devon before the first tour match against Devon and Cornwall on 17 September. The tourists then relocated to Wales where matches were played at Newport, Swansea and Cardiff.

At Oxford the Waratahs suffered their first defeat 0–3 against a varsity side, although they won the next encounter against Cambridge. Matches were also played at Liverpool, Newcastle and Coventry before they sailed to Dublin. The Waratahs won the first Test of the tour 5–3 against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on 12 November.

Two weeks later the tourists met Wales at Cardiff Arms where they triumphed 18–8. From Cardiff they travelled to Scotland where matches were played at Glasgow, Melrose, Aberdeen and the Test loss at Edinburgh. The tourists made day trips to the Lochs, Lomond, Long and Gyll and where shown over the King's castle at Balmoral. Back in Edinburgh castles were visited by day with dinners and theatre parties attended at night.

The party travelled to London for New Year and were shown over the Houses of Parliament by Lord Donoughmore, the Secretary of the House of Lords and Sir James Whitley, the Speaker of the House of Commons. They were presented to the Prince of Wales at St James's Palace and to the King at Sandringham House. At Sandringham they accompanied the King through the woods on a shooting expedition after lunch and were presented to Her Majesty, Queen Mary at afternoon tea.

Later the Australians were flattered by a personal invitation to take tea at the Piccadilly residence of the Duke and Duchess of York where they met the infant Princess Elizabeth. Three other days were spent in the company of officers of the Army, Air Force and Navy culminating in a tour of the Royal Navy facilities at Portsmouth where they were of shown over the workings of the recently launched Australian submarines HMS Otway and HMS Oxley, the museum piece HMS Victory and the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III.

Two days after the Test loss at Twickenham the squad left for France, spending a night in Paris before journeying to Bordeaux. There against a selected provincial side the Waratahs suffered the most convincing defeat of the tour with the locals taking an early lead and holding on to a 19–10 victory. Then followed a match in Toulouse against a side representing south-western France in which the visitors prevailed.

Back in Paris, the tourists were entertained and shown the city's splendour before meeting the French national side at Stade Colombes in the final Test match of the tour in front of a crowd of 40,000 with 2,000 gendarmes stationed around the enclosure to keep in check the emotions of the enthusiasts. From Paris the squad crossed the channel and departed from Liverpool in the Melita for Canada. They travelled by train from coast to coast with stops at Montreal, Toronto, Banff and Sicamous. Arriving in Vancouver in late February 1928 the squad spent twelve days and played three exhibition matches against varsity and club sides.

In March 1928 they boarded the Aorangi in Vancouver to commence the final leg home with stops in Honolulu, Suva and Auckland before arriving in Sydney by month's end, a full nine months after first setting out.[1]

Touring party

  • Manager: E.G. Shaw

  • Captain: A.C. Wallace

  • Vice-Captain: C.L. Fox


NameTestsClubCareer capsTour AppsPositionPts
A.W. Ross5Sydney University2029Full back
A.J.A. Bowers1Eastern Suburbs, Randwick79Three-quarter
J.B. Egan0Eastern Suburbs07Three-quarter
E.E. Ford5Glebe-Balmain721Three-quarter
G.C.Gordon0Western Suburbs, Newcastle YMCA18Three-quarter
S.C. King4Western Suburbs1419Three-quarter
W.H. Mann0Sydney University07Three-quarter
W.B.J.Sheehan2Sydney University1812Three-quarter
C.H.T. Towers3Randwick1929Three-quarter
A.C. Wallace (c)5Sydney University822Three-quarter
J.L. Duncan0Randwick18Half-back
S.J. Malcolm3Cook's Hill Surf Club, Newcastle YMCA, Manly1811Half-back
F.W. Meagher2Randwick812Half-back
T. Lawton5Sydney University, Western Suburbs1427[2]Half-back
J.G. Blackwood5Eastern Suburbs2123Forward
G.V. Bland0Manly94Forward
M.R. Blair1Western Suburbs37Forward
J.W.P. Breckenridge5Glebe-Balmain1126Forward
A.N. Finlay5Sydney University1224[3]Forward
J.A. Ford[4]4Glebe-Balmain1125Forward
C.L. Fox (v.c)1Northern Suburbs1712[5]Forward
E.N. Greatorex2Newcastle YMCA814Forward
P.B. Judd4Western Suburbs1124Forward
G.P. Storey5Western Suburbs820Forward
A.N. Tancred3Glebe-Balmain316Forward
J.L. Tancred2Glebe-Balmain216Forward
K. Tarleton0Newcastle YMCA29Forward
E.J. Thorn0Manly1513Forward
H.F. Woods4Newcastle YMCA819Forward

Matches of the tour

The "Exhibition Matches" are not classed as important as the "Tour matches". They are listed on the tour but the starting line-ups are not counted in the players stats.

Test matches

117 Sep 1927Devon and CornwallRectory FieldDevonportEngland30–3
222 Sep 1927NewportRodney ParadeNewportWales20–3
324 Sep 1927Neath and AberavonTalbot Athletic GroundPort TalbotWales24–5
428 Sep 1927 [6]Abertillery and Cross KeysAbertillery ParkAbertilleryWales13–3
56 Oct 1927SwanseaSt. Helen'sSwanseaWales11–0
68 Oct 1927East MidlandsFranklin's GardensNorthamptonEngland16–12
78 Oct 1927Yorkshire and CumberlandLidget GreenBradfordEngland9–3
812 Oct 1927Glasgow DistrictOld Anniesland GroundGlasgowScotland10–0
915 Oct 1927South of ScotlandThe GreenyardsMelroseScotland36–0
1019 Oct 1927North of ScotlandSt Machar GroundAberdeenScotland21–15
1122 Oct 1927LondonTwickenham StadiumLondonEngland0–0
1227 Oct 1927Oxford UniversityIffley RoadOxfordEngland0–3
1329 Oct 1927Leicestershire RUWelford Road StadiumLeicesterEngland20–8
142 Nov 1927Cambridge UniversityGrange RoadCambridgeEngland18–11
155 Nov 1927Combined ServicesTwickenham StadiumLondonEngland13–11
1612 Nov 1927IrelandLansdowne RoadDublinIreland5–3
1716 Nov 1927UlsterRavenhillBelfastNorthern Ireland11–3
1819 Nov 1927 [7]Northumberland and DurhamGosforth Greyhound StadiumGosforthEngland14–9
1926 Nov 1927WalesCardiff Arms ParkCardiffWales18–8
2029 Nov 1927Llanelli RFCStradey ParkLlanelliWales24–14
213 Dec 1927Cardiff RFCCardiff Arms ParkCardiffWales15–9
228 Dec 1927Pontypool RFCPontypool ParkPontypoolWales3–6
2310 Dec 1928Lancashire and CheshireBirkenhead ParkBirkenheadEngland29–11
2417 Dec 1927ScotlandMurrayfieldEdinburghScotland8–10
2522 Dec 1927Warwickshire and North MidlandsBarkers Butts LaneCoventryEngland8–5
2631 Dec 1927Gloucester and SomersetshiresMemorial StadiumBristolEngland13–4
277 Jan 1928EnglandTwickenham StadiumLondonEngland11–18
2812 Jan 1928South of FranceParc LescureBordeauxFrance10–19
2915 Jan 1928MidiStade Ernest-WallonToulouseFrance11–3
3022 Jan 1928FranceStade ColombesParisFrance11–8
3029 Jan 1928 [8]London teamTwickenham StadiumLondonEngland0–0

Exhibition matches

Scores and results list New South Wales's points tally first.
23 July 1927VictoriaMotordrome, MelbourneWon19–9
10 August 1927CeylonCH & FC Grounds, ColomboWon23–3
1 September 1927[9]TeignmouthTeignmouthWon38–3
7 September 1927[10]Plymouth AlbionPlymouthWon21–11
25 February 1928Vancouver Representative XVVancouverWon9–6
29 February 1928VarsityVancouverWon55–3
3 March 1928Vancouver Representative XVVancouverWon17–0

Test matches


Team details
N.S. Wales
Arthur DouglasFBAlex Ross
Jim GanlyWAllen Bowers
Maurice AtkinsonCJohnnie Wallace (c)
George Stephenson (c)CCyril Towers
Henry StephensonWEric Ford
Eugene DavyFHTom Lawton
Mark SugdenSHWally Meagher
Charles HanrahanPBruce Judd
Jimmy FarrellHJock Blackwood
Jim McVickerPHarry Woods
Charles PayneLGeoff Storey
Hugh McVickerLHuck Finlay
Theodore PikeFArnold Tancred
Allan BuchananFWylie Breckenridge
William BrowneN8Jack Ford


  • Towers described the match as "an evenly contested and arduous struggle ...lacking the brilliance of the other internationals".[11]

  • The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between Ireland and an Australian side.


Team details
N.S. Wales
Tommy ReesFBAlex Ross
Dan JonesWEric Fordd
John RobertsCBilly Sheehan
Roy JonesCSyd King
Ernie FinchWJohnnie Wallace (c)
Windsor LewisFHTom Lawton
Tal HarrisSHWally Meagher
David JenkinsPBruce Judd
Lonza BowdlerHJock Blackwood
Ned JenkinsPHarry Woods
Harry PhillipsLGeoff Storey
Gus BroughtonLHuck Finlay
Iorweth JonesFArnold Tancred
Tom HollingdaleFWylie Breckenridge
Ivor Jones (c)N8Jack Ford


Team details
Scotland: Dan Drysdale, Edward Taylor, Robert Kelly, James Dykes, Bill Simmers, Harry Greenlees, Peter Douty, William Ferguson, William Roughead, James Scott, John Bannerman, David MacMyn, James Graham, Willie Welsh, John Patterson
New South Wales: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Syd King, Billy Sheehan, Johnnie Wallace, Tom Lawton, Syd Malcolm, Harry Woods, Jock Blackwood, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Huck Finlay, Arnold Tancred, Jack Ford, Wylie Breckenridge


  • "The playing area at Murrayfield had been covered throughout the week with straw as a protection against the inclemency of the weather and this covering was removed only just prior to the commencement of the match. The day was bitterly cold but notwithstanding this a crowd of 55,000 was present to witness the finest exhibition of the 15-a-side code that has been given for a number of years.

  • The tactical keynote both in attack and defence of each of those evenly matched sides was speed. With 20 minutes left to play, both sides had scored two tries each, but the local side had converted twice, while the Waratahs had only been successful in this respect once. The spectators were mad with excitement during the last 10 minutes, as a NSW forward crossed the line twice but was recalled for infringements while the Waratah captain, after having beaten the opposition lost his footing on the partly frozen surface. A draw would have been a better ending to the game instead of the 10–8 victory for Scotland, as it dd not seem fitting that such an even and thrilling contest should be decided by a kick. It will suffice to say that the match will live long in the memory of those who witnessed as well as participated in it". (Towers)[12]

  • The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between Scotland and an Australian side.


Team details
N.S. Wales
Monkey SellarFBAlex Ross
William Kirwan-TaylorWEric Fordd
Carl AarvoldCCyril Towers
James RichardsonCSyd King
Thomas DevittWJohnnie Wallace (c)
Colin LairdFHTom Lawton
Arthur YoungSHSyd Malcolm
Kendrick StarkPBruce Judd
Sam TuckerHJock Blackwood
Ron Cove-Smith (c)PHarry Woods
David Turquand-YoungLGeoff Storey
Edward StanburyLHuck Finlay
Thomas LawsonFTed Greatorex
Joe PeritonFWylie Breckenridge
Thomas CoulsonN8Jack Ford


  • England played with the wind at their backs in the first half and made all the running. A dash down the wing, a centring kick and the flanker J.S Tucker was over for a try which was converted 5–0 to England. Wallace made several breaks in the centre and then told Cyril Towers to loop outside him when he broke again. The move was executed brilliantly and with the conversion the scored were tied 5–5.(Zavos)[13]

  • "Up till half-time, the game had been fast and brilliant, with the Englishmen having a commanding lead of 10 points (15–5) at the interval. Soon after the change over, the locals increased their lead with another try and it was from then that the game reached such a height as a spectacle that it caused the press to place it in number-one position as the greatest game ever seen in England. Even champions of the past, great supporters of bygone games, conceded that the efforts of the Waratahs to make up a deficit of 13 points during the concluding 20 minutes was productive of the finest football imaginable".(Towers)[14]

  • The Waratahs showed their great fighting spirit by going into an extra-Waratah mode, attacking from everywhere, with John Ford, the massive number 8, taking the ball up time after time. Towers scored 18–8. Then the winger Eric Ford raced through the England defence 18–11. The Waratahs were still attacking the England line desperate to snatch the victory, when the full-time whistle blew. The crowd roared its appreciation of a great game of rugby, with the applause continuing long after the players had retired to the changing rooms and the hot tubs. (Zavos)


Team details
N.S. Wales
Louis PellissierFBAlex Ross
Adolphe Jaureguy (c)WJohnnie Wallace (c)
Andre BehoteguyCCyril Towers
Henri BehoteguyCSyd King
Edmond VellatWEric Ford
Charles LacazedieuFHTom Lawton
Clement DupontSHSyd Malcolm
Andre LouryPMalcolm Blair
Georges VaillsHJock Blackwood
Jean MorerePJim Tancred
Andre CamelLGeoff Storey
Jean GaliaLCharlie Fox
Raoul BonamyFTed Greatorex
Eugene RibereFWylie Breckenridge
Albert CazenaveN8Arthur Finlay
  • "The game resulted in a Waratah victory and the standard of play was high, but the antics of the locals rather distracted us. The mere fact of having to conclude the match that day did not prevent some of the players from lying down for a spell when they were tired, or holding up the game to debate a point with the referee (who did not speak French) while a weep following on a hard tackle seemed to be part of their tactics".(Towers)[15]

  • The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between France and an Australian side.


Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFrom a compilation of reports by Waratah tourist Cyril Towers published in the Spirit of Rugby reference as Rugby's Great Adventure
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org3 as Captain against Swansea, Yorkshire and Cumberland and Leicestershire
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgIncluding 14 matches as Vice-Captain
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgGot sent off in the Cardiff game.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org6 as Captain against Neath and Aberavon, East Midlands, Glasgow, South of Scotland, London and Oxford University
Sep 30, 2019, 2:52 AM
Citation Linkwww.rugbyrelics.comAbertillery program
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Citation Linkwww.rugbyrelics.comNorthumberland program
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Citation Linkwww.rugbyrelics.comLondon program
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Citation Linknla.gov.au"Waratahs impress". The West Australian. Perth. 3 September 1927. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
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Citation Linknla.gov.au"Waratahs win their first game. Trial at Plymouth Albion". Arrow. Sydney. 9 September 1927. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Spirit of Rugby p87
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Spirit of Rugby p89
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Golden Wallabies p126
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Spirit of Rugby p90
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThe Spirit of Rugby p92
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