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EVOLUTION OF RUGGER T—__

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EVOLUTION OF RUGGER T — L Gradual and Silent Changes. HOW SCOTLAND FIRST PLAYED FOUR THREES. [By FORWARD."] Comparison between past and present (Siscloses many changes, but in Rugby football their evolution has been so gradual, so silent as to be almost imper- ceptible. On international days, more than any 'other, men who Lave been interested in the game from boyhood look wistfully back through the vista of years that are gone, and when, by some chance, two or three of them gather to- gether, they talk of other and, perhaps, happier days. These little talks are oft-times tinged with sadness. Faces that were once familiar are missing, and many ot the boys of the old brigade" lave dropped out of the ranks. With he incoming of a new generation there seems to be created a new spirit, and the jid 'uns feel that they are breathing a new atmosphere, which is not half so agreeable as the old. But their innate geniality triumphs o'er all the changes, and once they are settled down in cosiness and comfort, they brush aside soft sen- timentalism, and lifting their glasses, fight their battles over again. To the o t he veterans these little convivial gatherings on the eve of an international match are second only in importance and interest to the ma,ch itself. To them this annual chat is quite a sacred institution, hal- lowed by the pleasant memories of the stirring days of buoyant- youth. A ver- batim report of some of these chats would be an epitomised history, in a bright and readable form, of the rise and develop- ment of Rugby football in this country. And it is a wonderful story when you come to think of it. Twenty-five years ago Rugby football in Wales was, more or less, in its swaddling clothes, and com- para-tively few people cared whether it would grow out of its infancy or die young. (Spectators could be counted in dozens wnere they can be counted to-day in thou- sands. Clubs that are disappointed to- day with £100 "gates" were thankful .t that time if they took a hundred shillings. They wouldn't have known what to do with so much wealth. There was no talk of professionalism. Men played the game from sheer, pure love of it. But things have changed, and it is impossible to put back the hands of the clock and revert to the customs and methods of the early days. They are gone for ever. We must, rather, look to the future, and try to shape our destinies on lines that will run on parallel lines with modern require- ments and be in keeping with the senti- ment of the age. Even as late as 1892, which was the year in which Scotland won her last match in Wales, the game was not the attraction it is to-day by half, and a crowd of ten or fifteen thousand people alarmed some good folk so much that the degeneracy of our poor little nation was made the text of many a sermon. They were preachers, but not prophefts, ror instead of degenerating the race has deve- loped on mosc healthy lines, and nothing has conduced more to a growing respect tor Welsh-men all the world over than their prowess on the foot-bail field. Zeaianders, tSouch Africans, and Austra- lians will, 1 am sure, agree with that pro- position. 1 have purpotely reierrea to this match because it was the last game in which the Scotsmen played nine for- wards against our eight, and three three- quarters against, our lOur; but, although I victory went to the Scots by a goal and I a try to a try, they became converts to the iour three-quarcer game, and that is, surely, one or the ..most interesting episodes in Rugoy football history. Ban- croft was at run-back rtiat day, and in the third line w-ere Arthur Gould, Con- way Rees, T. W. Pearson, and W. At Cutcheon. The half-backs were Evan and David James. And what a game the famous brothers played that uay! ihey made rings rouna Urr and Ander- son, but, notwithstanding their brilliant play, the attack, of the Welsh three- quarters was not good enough to pierce the Scottish defence more than once. The great iioswell was among tile Cale- donian forwards that day, and scored one of the two tries for his siae. So menacing was the Welsh back play at times that the ,Scots-men cast aside their cast-iron con- servatism by bringing a forward out of the pack and playing him as a fourth I three-quarter. Tnus was introduced the thin end of the wedge of the four three- quarter system into Scottish Rugby foot- I odd, and this is a little historical fact which was never known to some people I and has been forgotten by many. it was a practical recognition by Scotland of the greater effectiveness of the four three* quarter game. The conversion took a long time, but the canny Scot has never gone back on it. 'Inougn the four three-quarter game has been adhered to by Scotland for so many years, there are still a good many veteran Ruggerites ayont tne Tweed whose faith in the old iormaition remains unshaken to this day, and if they had their own way they would unhesitatingly revert to it. it was only half-a-dozen years ago I heard a group of representa- tive supporters of the game in Scotland strongly advocating going back to the old game. "What muse these old campaigners have though when they saw ales playing seven forwards and eight backs at Inverleith. two years ago, when Reggie Gibbs made that last desperate effort to save his side from defeat. It would be "exfemely interest- ing to watch the experiment of 6cottand playing nine forwards and six backs against the eight forwards and seven backs of Wales once again. Wales, I am sure, would have no objection to it, even on the ground of its being reactionary. With our four three-quarter system in its present state of perfection the difficulty of opposing teams is to stop our backs scoring even with an equal number mark- ing them. The system inaugurated and perfected by Wales was adopted by the I sister nations, not so much from choice as from obligation.

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