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AOE wins Olympic Silver Medal

6 years ago By Glyn Brazell

With the London Olympics currently taking place, it seems appropriate to highlight a time when Rugby was a part of the Games, with success for an AOE.

The first 'modern' games were held in Athens in 1896 but did not include Rugby. Rugby was added to the Olympic program for the second Olympiad and featured in the games held at Paris in 1900, London in 1908, Antwerp in 1920, and Paris again in 1924.

Three teams competed in the Rugby tournament in the1900 Olympic Games held in Paris. A French representative team defeated a team from the German city of Frankfurt and Moseley Wanderers from England. The Moseley team had played a full game of rugby in England the day before they made the journey to Paris. They arrived in the morning, played the match in the afternoon and were back in their home country by the next morning.

The proposed game between the British and German sides was cancelled and both are credited as silver medalists. The Franco-Haitian centre Constantin Henriquez de Zubiera become the first black gold medalist. Three months earlier he had competed in the tug of war.

A Birmingham City Gazette story of 1900 announced that ”On Sunday 28th October an English XV will meet the French Rugby Union at the Paris Exhibition Grounds,

The following players representing the English Union left London last night for that purpose:
HA Loveitt (Coventry) back; HS Nicholls (Old Edwardians), L Hood (Rosslyn Park), C Wittindale (Coventry), K Wittindale (Aston Old Edwardians) threequarters, JH Birtles (Moseley), J Cantion (London Irish) half-backs; JG Wallis (Old Edwardians), CP Deykin (Moseley), V Smith (Old Edwardians), AJL Darby (Cambridge University), ML Logan (London Scottish), FH Wilson (Old Crusaders), MW Talbot (Moseley), & FC Bayliss (Moseley) forwards....."

NB - there is no record of a K Wittindale having attended KEGS Aston, although in the laste 1890's and early 1900's it was quite common for players to play for sides other than their old school side.

A Reuters report in 'The Times' dated 29th October 1900 attributes the defeat of the English side, 27 points to 8, before a crowd of 10,000, in part to 'the fatigue of the journey'. The schedule of most of the players appears to have been - Saturday match in the Birmingham area, train to London, boat train and cross-channel ferry, train to Paris, arriving Sunday morning. France had already beaten Germany a fortnight before, so France are recorded in Olympic history as being Rugby Football champions for the Second Modern Olympic Games.

The scoring system in 1900 was a bit different than in previous years, and also different than that used today. At the 1900 Olympics, a try was worth 3 points, as was a penalty goal. A conversion was worth 2 points and a dropped goal was worth 4 points.

The Olympics was resurrected in modern times by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator. He formed the international Olympic committee (IOC) in 1894 and introduced rugby to the second games in 1900.

De Coubertin admired the ethos of Rugby Football, its moral values as well as the physical and mental skills required to play it. His active interest in Rugby Football is reflected in a famous essay called' Notes about Foot-ball', which he wrote in 1896:

“What is admirable in football (rugby), is the perpetual mix of individualism and discipline, the necessity for each man to think, anticipate, take a decision and at the same time subordinate one’s reasoning, thoughts and decisions to those of the captain. And even the referee’s whistle stopping a player for a ‘fault’ one team mate has made and he hasn’t seen, tests his character and patience. For all that, football is truly the reflection of life, a lesson experimenting in the real world, a first-rate educational tool.” - Baron Pierre de Coubertin

After his return from his first visit to England, de Coubertin became an active promoter of physical education in general and Rugby Football in particular, which he managed to introduce into several school establishments in Paris, securing the long term future of the Game in the country and as one of the founders of the game in France, he set up the first French schools championship in 1890.

He went on playing with his friends in Bois de Boulogne and although there is no information about his Rugby prowess, his knowledge of the Game was well respected by his peers, who elected him to referee the 1892 match between Stade Française and Racing Club de France – now regarded as the inaugural French championship.

In April of that year, he was instrumental in bringing Rosslyn Park FC to Paris, to play Stade Français. This was the first time an English Club had played in continental Europe.

The French educationalist became one of France's leading promoters of sport in general and Rugby in particular, and as such he played a significant role in the formation of the Union des Sociétés Français de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) and the development of Rugby in France. He was elected to the IRB Hall of Fame in 2007.

Pictured are the scoreboard from the match between France & Germany, along with an action shot of the game. Unfortunaetly no pictures exist of the England side that competed

Where next?

Inter club trial game Tuesday 14th August 7.00pm KO A trial match will be held between all of those individuals who wish to be considered for selection in AOE's 1st or 2nd XVs.
Rugby Training With only 3 weeks to go to the OY's tournament, and with the 1sts and 2nds both scheduled to play a match the following week, a reminder about training


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