With fireworks, military and pipe bands, professional “star” singers of national anthems and all the theatrical pre-match activity it is easy to forget what rugby internationals were like in the amateur days. And I don’t mean the 1970s, with the amusing lyrics of Welsh folk entertainer Max Boyce. I mean even further back than that. Imagine another international, over a hundred years ago.
It’s a winter afternoon at Cardiff Arms Park in 1905. The scene is set for a test between Wales and the first touring New Zealand team, the “All Blacks” (the name was new, and this group also became known as the “originals”, on account of their superb touring record).
They had arrived in the September, beaten Scotland, Ireland and England, and now — on 16th December in front of 47,000 spectators in the first clash between the two nations — it was Wales’s turn, or so they thought.
The All Blacks were applauded onto the park where they performed their “Haka” in front of a silent crowd. Then in response the Welsh supporters, led by Dr Edward ‘Teddy’ Morgan and the rest of the Welsh team, sang the Welsh national anthem “Hen Wlad fy Nhadau” (Land of Our Fathers).
The All Blacks were overwhelmed by the sound. Unbeaten until that day, the New Zealanders went down to the Welsh with their new secret weapon. Wales won 3-0, by virtue of a single try by Teddy Morgan, one of four Christ College, Brecon old boys playing that day.
The match was the first time that a national anthem had been sung before a sporting fixture.
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons.
Audio: Côr Meibion Pontypridd with The Parc & Dare Band.