November 16th 1917

I was looking for some relief from this never-ending war, and my thoughts turned to rugger.

Martin Collier

Lieut. Martin Collier (RN) is an Old Dragon player of note, having represented the Navy (1910-14), United Services (1910-14) and The South (1913-14). In normal times we would do well to listen any advice he cared to offer on the playing of the game, but the notes he has sent us, written, he says “after a recent match on the East Coast,describe, perhaps, a wartime version of the game that is certainly not cricket!

“Somewhere within the precincts of Rugby School may be seen a stone bearing an inscription to the memory of a boy who, during a game of soccer ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of the game, picked up the ball and ran with it.’ This commemorates the birth of the Royal and Ancient game of Rugger.

So far as we know, there is as yet no memorial to the man who ‘with a fine disregard for the rules of the game’ (a delicious phrase) first plugged his immediate opponent in the eye; thus developing the game into its present fine, manly and vigorous form so popular in Great Yarmouth this year.

For the benefit of those of our readers as yet unversed, we propose to outline a few of the more elementary points and moves in this splendid sport; with the hope that they will practise them in solitude, and presently confute our opponents by displaying their prowess on the field of play.

  1. THE HAND-OFF. An absurd rule forbids this to be administered – as Nature obviously intended it – with the clenched fist. Only a few old-fashioned referees however, still object to it in this form; and, as so useful a weapon can hardly be dispensed with, it should be used, as Nature intended, whenever possible. The user may be sure of our sympathy should an obsolete but keen-sighted referee ‘order him off.’
  2. THE SCRAG. The ‘modus operandi’ of this delightful ‘tour-de-force’ is as follows. The scragger seizes his intended victim round the neck with the right arm, at the same time binding his arms to his sides with the left. Throwing his weight back he then jerks the scraggee off his balance and, while falling, slews half round, so that he – the scragger – will fall on top. At the same time, the right arm is shifted a few inches so that the wrist or knuckles, when the prone position is finally obtained, will lie between the victim’s face and mother earth. Then placing all his weight on the back of the scraggee’s head, the right wrist or knuckles are worked to and fro. The referee blows his whistle for ‘cease firing,’ and one or both participants in the ‘tête-à-tête’ then rejoin their fellow players. Some half-hearted players have a foolish prejudice, sometimes even amounting to a rooted objection, to playing the part of the scraggee unless they are in possession of the ball. But this is quite a minor point.
  3. THE SUPER-SCRAG. This is a refinement or improved variation on the above, and should be employed when it is desired that any particular player should take no further part in the game. The selected opponent is grasped round the neck with both hands from the front, as though about to be fondled. The head is then pulled forward and down as briskly as possible, the operator at the same time lifting his knee forward and up in a similar brisk manner. If correctly timed, and if the opponent has a certain amount of forward momentum at the critical moment, the operator’s knee and the victim’s chin will meet at a point with a very considerable force of impact. Stretcher-bearers then remove the body so that it will not interfere with play.”

I think that is quite enough for now – there is more dubious advice on ‘holding the ball in the scrum,’ which can be divulged at some point in the future.

December 9th 1915

Pug Wallace

‘Pug’ Wallace

Lieut. Lindsay (Pug) Wallace has come home several times this term on ‘home-sick’ leave from his regiment in Bicester and is now quartered in Oxford. We were lucky to be able to secure his services as referee in the first few rugger matches (and he had a most enthusiastic and interested audience at the School House one Saturday evening whilst he explained the mysteries of his Machine Gun.)

Away matches have proved difficult, particularly if returning after dark, under black-out regulations (in case of attracting the attention of German zeppelins). The trip back from Eagle House in Sandhurst involved a brief halt in Reading to lay in a supply of provisions for the journey home; some narrow escapes for passers-by, lamp-posts and animals; various compulsory halts for interviews with special constables; an uninterrupted bump along the Iffley Road till finally arriving back at the School House.

1915 Rugger Team

Sadly our rugger season has come to a disappointing and unexpected end. We have been attacked and smitten, hip and thigh, by a devastating kind of influenza cold. We are glad to think that at least two of the unplayed games can be played next term.

Meanwhile, if (a) Pentreath can convince himself that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line; (b) Mallalieu will forget himself and realise that the man with the ball in his hands is the most likely person to score a try, on whichever side he is playing; (c) Gunther will remember that the haphazard pass in his own “25” is likely to lead to disaster (otherwise he is excellent); (d) Adamson will practise until he finds out that it is possible to be tackled without the ball being hurled in any direction and to any player of either side who happens to be on the look-out (his own tackling is v.g. indeed); Potts will find out that it is fatal to change your mind when attempting either to fall on the ball or to pick it up… we may confidently meet any of the teams who were opposed to us this term.