Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Mayne, one of the most decorated soldiers during WWII and member of the newly formed Special Air Service (SAS) elite military command but before his war exploits he was a true legendary rugby player. Nicknamed the Irish Lion and lauded by the Boks as the best Lion’s forward to play in S. Africa on the 1938 Lions Tour. He played for Ireland and Malone RFC, he also enjoyed his drink and was described as a man’s man due to his boisterous behaviour but his bravery on and off the field will never be forgotten. Ironically, he was born in 1915 and survived 2 world wars to then tragically die in a car accident in 1955 at the age of 40. Although highly decorated for bravery beyond the call of duty he was never awarded the highest military medal the Victoria Cross, however, it was awarded to a further four rugby players during the wars, three Irishmen and a Welshman. In the 6 Nations rugby tournament the Auld Alliance Cup contested between France and Scotland commemorates their respective rugby war heroes who lost their lives in WWI.
The New Zealand national rugby team known as the All Blacks are considered to be the most successful rugby team in modern times owe their fame to Charles John Monro who introduced rugby to the country when he returned from England in 1870. Monro played the game while studying at Christ’s College in Finchley, UK. The Kiwis first ever rugby match took place on 14th May, 1870 with the new style rugby ball made by the famous Gilbert company. A memorial statue dedicated to him stands in front of the N. Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North where he first played and often refereed matches. Thanks to Charles and his enthusiasm for rugby we have seen other legends emerge, none so famous and known worldwide as Jonah Lomu. He holds the record of being the youngest player to play for the All Blacks at the tender age of 19 yo. At 1.96m tall and 120Kg this powerful youngster was not a forward but a running back capable of incredible speed and terrorised defenders when he ran at them. Unfortunately, Jonah suffered for over 20 years from a kidney disease which eventually took him at the young age of 40 years old in 2015. In his curtailed rugby career he earned many titles and awards, his peers lauded him and where ever he played the crowds came to see him in action. Thousands attended his funeral at the Eden Park Stadium service with emotional Hakas performed in his honour to being a true superstar of rugby.
Jonny Wilkinson, an England international played against Lomu and said that he is unstoppable when in full flight. The same Jonny Wilkinson was later to become a legendary national hero for his last second of the game drop kick goal in the 2003 RWC final against Australia. Wilkinson is a household name and everybody remembers that kick to win the William Webb Ellis Cup for England and he amassed an outstanding record of 1,246 points in his 12 year rugby career. However, on the downside of rugby Mr. Wilkinson pops up there too, he was scorned in the media and called a Love Rat for his affair in the 90s with none other than Princess Diana and subsequent forced divorce by his then wife which is why he probably joined Toulouse Rugby and moved to France.
The French have a reputation for being romantic and passionate but in 2004 France was shocked when the Quiet Man of rugby the former captain and N.8 of the international team shot and murdered his wife with a 357 Magnum pistol. A crime of passion? Marc Cecillon never gave his motive in court and claimed he does not know why he armed himself and shot his wife in front of 60 people. His lawyer gave mitigating circumstances to his acute alcoholism accumulated after he stopped playing rugby, he was released from prison in 2011 but still struggles with his alcoholism as in 2018 he was sentenced to 1 year in captivity on a drink and drive charge plus other offences.
There have been some unsporting incidents that are hard to forget in the rugby world, one such incident was aptly named Bloodgate. In the Heineken Cup match in 2009 between Harlequins RFC and Leinster RFC the Harlequin’s physiotherapist as instructed by the management used false blood to enable a tactical player substitution. On investigation the RFU discovered the Harlequins management had used this fake blood trick on four earlier occasions resulting in hefty suspensions for all involved and a massive fine of £260,000 for the club.
The drugs test scandal in 1999 of Lawrence Dallaglio which saw him relinquish and resign the England team captaincy. This bombshell news reported in the press who had set up a drug deal sting on the unsuspecting player which was categorically denied by the England captain when published. In an open hearing new evidence was produced which resulted in the high court judge imposing a £15,000 fine on Dallaglio for bringing the game in to disrepute, the RFU also refrained from banning him by dropping all charges against him.
Speaking of disrepute the England RWC squad of 2011 certainly took it to new levels. A disappointing tournament for the team saw them exit the competition in the quarter finals but they hit the headlines with the post-game frivolities in Queenstown ski resort being photographed tossing dwarves in the venues Dwarf Throwing Championship!
Mike Tindall in a relationship with Princess Anne’s daughter was captured on security cameras with an unidentified woman and Mani Tuilagi filmed jumping off an Auckland ferry boat in only his underpants earning him a £3,000 fine.
The glorious game of rugby has given many legends and heroes but as we see these gladiators on the field are subject to human frailties and the underbelly reveals that in extreme and infamous moments in the rugby world even in lower level rugby incidents happen although not as extreme such a the Naked Bicycle Rider at the Krakow Rugby Festival. One of the players arrived on a hired bicycle to the tournament after a heavy night out and rode around the pitch completely naked carrying a flag much to the shock and horror of the bystanders and public eating lunch in the club restaurant. Rugby life does have its moments.