|Ground(s)||Cardiff Arms Park (Capacity: 12,500)|
|Chairman||John Huw Williams|
|League(s)||Welsh Premier Division|
|Sections of Cardiff Athletic Club|
Cardiff Athletic Club
Cardiff Cricket Club
Lisvane (CAC) Tennis Club
Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club
Cardiff and UWIC Hockey Club
Cardiff Rugby Football Club is a rugby union football club based in Cardiff, the capital city of Wales. The club was founded in 1876 and played their first few matches at Sophia Gardens, but soon relocated to Cardiff Arms Park where they have been based ever since. They built a reputation as one of the great clubs in world rugby largely through a series of wins against international touring sides. Both South Africa and New Zealand have been beaten by Cardiff; and Australia have failed to beat the club in six attempts. Through its history Cardiff RFC have provided more players to the Welsh national side and British and Irish Lions than any other Welsh club. They are now a feeder club to the Cardiff Blues regional team.
- 1 History
- 2 Current squad
- 3 The Arms Park
- 4 Club honours
- 5 British and Irish Lions
- 6 Wales International Captains
- 7 Other notable former players
- 8 Regional Rugby
- 9 Games played against international opposition
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 External links
The first recognised team to begin playing rugby in Cardiff was Glamorgan Football Club, formed as a club team while Cardiff was still a town. The team was formed by a group of young men during the 1873/74 season, after a circular letter was sent to interested parties by S. Campell Cory. Playing under the Cheltenham College rules, Glamorgan FC had increased its membership to sixty six by November 1874. 1874 saw Glamorgan's first away game, against Cowbridge Grammar School, and by 1875 the team played its first encounter with Newport. Around 1875, two further clubs came into existence in Cardiff, they were Tredegarville Football Club, whose ranks included Jas. Bush, father of future Cardiff rugby hero Percy Bush; and the Wanderers Football Club whose captain and founder was William David Phillips. Of the three teams, Glamorgan and Wanderers became the most notable, but both teams rarely travelled, and both had difficulty beating the now established clubs of Newport and Swansea. The supporters of both clubs started an agitation in the summer of 1876 for the two clubs to amalgamate, to give Cardiff town a better chance of beating the neighbouring teams. On Friday 22 September 1876 members of the Glamorgan and Wanderers clubs met at the Swiss Hall in Queen Street, Cardiff and decided to make a single club, to be called Cardiff Football Club. The first team captain was Donaldson Selby of Glamorgan and the vice-captain W.D. Phillips of Wanderers. Initially the club strip was black with a white skull and crossbones, but after pressure from the players parents to change what they saw as an inappropriate strip, the team adopted the black and blue of Cambridge University; after club player Thomas William Rees of Caius College brought his university strip to the club.
Cardiff FC played their first fixture on 2 December 1876, versus Newport at Wentloog Marshes. In 1881, Cardiff beat Llanelli to win the South Wales Challenge Cup, though the tournament was scrapped soon after due to persistent crowd trouble.
In 1881, Newport based sports administrator, Richard Mullock, formed the first Welsh international rugby team. Despite the team losing heavily to England, Mullock had chosen four players from Cardiff to represent the team; club captain William David Phillips, vice-captain B. B. Mann, Barry Girling and Leonard Watkins, a reflection on the clubs importance at the time. A month later, on 12 March 1881, Cardiff RFC was one of the eleven clubs present at the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union in Neath.
A notable early player was Frank Hancock. A skilful centre, Hancock first played for Cardiff due to an injury to a first regular. At this time, rugby was played with six backs and nine forwards but Hancock's performance so impressed the selectors that for the next game they selected him as a seventh back and selected only eight forwards. The system was soon adopted by the Welsh national team and the seven backs and eight forwards system exists in rugby to this day. Cardiff RFC and Hancock were jointly recognised by the International Rugby Board in 2011 for this innovation with induction to the IRB Hall of Fame.
In 1898, Cardiff were unofficial club champions of Wales for the first time. One year later, centre Gwyn Nicholls became the first Cardiff player to play for the British and Irish Lions (then only representing the British Isles), and scored a try in both the first and second Tests against Australia. Nicholls would also go on to captain Wales between 1902 and 1906. In 1904, Cardiff players fly-half Percy Bush, centre Rhys Gabe (who later captained Wales in 1907) and Arthur 'Boxer' Harding all went on the Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand (Nicholls was not selected). Bush scored in the first and second test against Australia, as Nicholls had, and thanks to his tries and goal-kicking during the first three Tests, finished as the top Test points scorer. Gabe scored a try in the third test against Australia, while Harding converted a try in the first Test and was the only Lions player to get on the score sheet against New Zealand, after scoring a penalty goal in the game against them at the end of the tour.
In 1905, there were four Cardiff players in the Wales team that famously beat New Zealand: Harding, Nicholls, Bush, Gabe and Bert Winfield, who would go on to captain Wales three years later. After an eight-year wait, Cardiff also managed to win the unofficial Welsh club championship in 1906 (going unbeaten in every game they played apart from against New Zealand) and 1907.
On New Year's Day 1907, Cardiff beat South Africa 17-0, a great achievement considering the national side had been beaten 11-0 by the Boks only a month earlier, and France were thrashed by them 55-6 two days later. The only other team to beat South Africa during their 29-match tour were Scotland.
After this performance, and Wales winning the Five Nations Grand Slam for the first time in 1908, four Cardiff players were selected for the Lions in 1908. Harding was selected as the first Cardiff player to captain the tour and was the only one of the four to have played for the Lions before, the other three being uncapped half-back Willie Morgan, and three-quarters Johnnie Williams and Reggie Gibbs. Gibbs remains the only player to have been capped for Wales at least 10 times and averaged more than a try a game, with 17 tries in 16 caps, and Williams came very close to his record with 17 tries in 17 Tests.
The tour was not a success, with the Lions managing to draw the second Test but losing the first and third by over twenty-five points each. However, Gibbs did manage to score in the first Test. The disappointed players made up for their failure the next year by winning the Grand Slam with Wales for the second time in a row and winning the unofficial championship with Cardiff. Cardiff also beat Australia 24-8 on the 28th December 1908. However, following this, the glory years were largely over for Cardiff and Wales, although Wales did manage to win the Grand Slam in 1911, and Cardiff came within one point of beating South Africa in a 7-6 defeat in 1912. But no Cardiff players were selected for another Lions tour for the next sixteen years, and they would not become Welsh champions again for the best part of three decades.
Between the wars
The First World War certainly had some effect on the club - Johnnie Williams died in the first weeks of the Battle of the Somme, and many other players returned wounded or simply too old to play rugby. Cardiff were forced to turn to younger talent for their team. Jim Sullivan was a prime example of this, making his first appearance for Cardiff at the age of 16 in October 1920, and went on to make 38 appearances over the rest of the season. In December 1920, just after his 17th birthday, he became the youngest player to ever appear for the Barbarians. However, in June 1921 he signed for professional rugby league club Wigan, beginning a new trend of Welsh union players "going north" to play rugby league.
Cardiff rugby finally managed a revival of some sort in the 1930s. Scrum-half Howard Poole, although never capped for Wales, was selected to play for the Lions in 1930, as was Ivor Williams in 1938. The club also won their first unofficial Welsh championship for 28 years in 1937, and managed to retain the title in 1938 and 1939, before the start of the Second World War.
After the Second World War
After the resumption of regular rugby, Cardiff beat Australia 11-3 on 21 November 1947, and were also unofficial Welsh champions in 1948 and 1949. Cardiff players helped Wales win their first Grand Slam in nearly forty years in 1950, and later that year supplied five players to the Lions for the first time later that year. The five were fly-half Billy Cleaver, prop Cliff Davies, centre Jack Matthews, scrum-half Rex Willis and Bleddyn Williams, the "Prince of Centres". Williams captained the Lions in the third and fourth Tests against New Zealand. Wales won another Grand Slam in 1952, with much the same side.
In 1952-53, Cardiff won the unofficial Welsh championship again, helped by the rise of prodigiously talented fly-half Cliff Morgan, but the best was still to come. On 21 November 1953, Cardiff faced New Zealand in front of a crowd of 56,000 at the Arms Park and, after a brilliant defensive effort following a 5-0 lead at half-time, hung on to win 8-3. Five Cardiff backs were selected in the Wales team captained by Bleddyn Williams that beat the All Blacks again less than a month later. These two results remain the last time either Cardiff or Wales have beaten New Zealand.
Cardiff repeated their unofficial championship victory two years later in 1955, and had three Lions in the 1955 touring side, notable for not including any of the five that toured in 1950. The three this time were fly-half Morgan, centre Gareth Griffiths and wing Haydn Morris. Morgan, in front of a then-world record crowd of 100,000, helped defeat the South Africans 23-22 with a brilliant try despite an injury to Reg Higgins reducing the Lions to 14 men (no replacements were allowed at this time). After the South Africans squared the series in the second Test, Morgan was made captain for the third Test and inspired the team with a combination a stirring team talk and a great kicking game to a 9-6 victory, ensuring the series could not be lost, after which he was dubbed "Morgan the Magnificent" by the South African press. After his Lions heroics Morgan was made captain of Wales, and helped them win the title (although not the Grand Slam) in 1956.
Australia played against and were defeated by Cardiff for the third time in 1957, 14-11, and another unofficial championship title was secured in 1958, but only second row Bill "Roddy" Evans was selected for the Lions in 1959, although he started four of the six Tests. A downturn in Welsh and Cardiff fortunes occurred around this time, although prop Kingsley Jones and second row Keith Rowlands from the club were still selected for the 1962 Lions tour, and Cardiff managed to come within a point of beating the All Blacks again in 1963. However, the slump began to end in 1964, when Wales shared the Five Nations title with Scotland, after which Wales won the Triple Crown and the title in 1965, followed by another championship in 1966, although the Grand Slam still eluded them. However, these successes helped Cardiff players centre Ken Jones and prop Howard Norris win places on the Lions tour to New Zealand. Later that year Cardiff beat Australia 14-8, although Wales were not able to repeat the feat a month later, losing 14-11.
The 1968 Lions tour was a historic one, containing a record six Cardiff players, wings Keri Jones and Maurice Richards, prop John O'Shea, (then) centre Gerald Davies, fly-half Barry John and scrum-half Gareth Edwards. While Jones and Richards would soon switch codes to play rugby league and O'Shea's tour would be marred somewhat by being the first Lion ever to be sent off for foul play, Davies, John and Edwards would go on to become legends, although their careers got off to inauspicious starts, the Lions losing three of the Tests again South Africa and only drawing the other one.
On the domestic front, they were denied silverware, as despite being top of the unofficial table for almost the whole season, the loss of their six Lions at the end of the season allowed Llanelli to overtake them. Cardiff again finished second behind Newport the next year, with Richards the only Lion to make more than 20 appearances. However, Wales won the Five Nations title and Triple Crown in 1969, only denied the Grand Slam by a draw in France, only to be whitewashed in three games against New Zealand and Australia in the summer.
1971 however, was the year in which John, Edwards and Davies would write themselves into history. Davies by this time had left for London Welsh, although he would later return. In the spring, they were all ever-presents in Wales's first Grand Slam in 18 years, and in the summer, they were selected for the Lions tour to New Zealand, along with Cardiff team-mate John Bevan. The tour remains the only occasion where the Lions have returned victorious from New Zealand. All four Cardiff players started the first Test, and all except Bevan played in the other three Tests. Despite only playing in the first Test, John Bevan became the Lions' record try scorer (including matches against club teams) with 17. Barry John was given the title "King Barry" by the New Zealanders after scoring 30 of the Lions' 48 points, and in him and Edwards, Cardiff could justifiably be said to have the best two half-backs in the world.
1971-72 was the first season where the WRU Challenge Cup was introduced. Cardiff reached the semi-final, before being beaten 16-9 at the Brewery Field by Neath, who went on to beat Llanelli in the final. Unfortunately in 1972 Barry John announced his decision to retire at the age of 27, not liking the celebrity status shoved on him and his family after the Lions tour.
The next season was also disappointing for Cardiff. They were soundly beaten by New Zealand 20-4, only a week after Llanelli had beaten them 9-3. In the Cup, they defeated South Wales Police, Mountain Ash, Ebbw Vale, Blaina and Swansea on their way to the final, but were again outclassed and lost 30-7 to Llanelli. In 1973-74 Cardiff reached the Cup semi-finals for the third year running, but were defeated 9-4 by Aberavon. Gareth Edwards however, led his country to a 24-0 win over Australia in November 1973. In 1974, Gerald Davies decided to return to Cardiff from London Welsh. Edwards and Davies were picked for the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa (although Davies refused to go in protest against apartheid) and Edwards started all four Tests, where the Lions went unbeaten through all 22 matches and would probably have won all their games, but in the final Test the South African referee blew the final whist four minutes early with the scores level and the Lions camped on the South African line.
In 1974-75 Cardiff failed to reach the WRU Challenge Cup semi-finals for the first time, losing 13-12 to Bridgend in the third round, despite not conceding a try in the entire Cup. However, on 1 November 1975, Cardiff met Australia for the fifth time in their history and, for the fifth time defeated them, 14-9, despite the absence of Edwards due to influenza. Both Edwards and Davies represented Wales in the 1976 Five Nations Grand Slam. During 1976-77, Cardiff defeated Pontypool and Aberavon on their way to the Challenge Cup final, where they were beaten 16-15 by Newport. Edwards decided not to go on the 1977 Lions tour, to show loyalty to his company who had let him go on three Lions tours previously. However, another Cardiff scrum-half, uncapped Brynmor Williams was picked, and played in the first three Tests before being injured in the third.
Both Davies and Edwards started for Wales in the 20-16 victory away to Ireland in the 1978 Five Nations that sealed a record three Triple Crowns in as many years, with Edwards also starting the next week and also dropping a goal in the 16-7 victory against France that sealed Wales their third Grand Slam in eight years. This was Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales - he had won 53 consecutive caps, never being dropped or injured, and scored 20 tries. Gerald Davies also retired from Wales after a 19-17 defeat in Sydney - tied with Edwards on 20 tries, scored in 46 caps.
In the 1977-78 club season, Davies had a fantastic game against Pontypool where despite only touching the ball four times due to the dominance of the Pooler pack, he scored four tries, with those being Cardiff's only points in a 16-11 victory. Cardiff's cup run continued to the semi-finals, where they were beaten by Swansea 18-13.
Flanker Stuart Lane, fly-half Gareth Davies, hooker Alan Phillips and scrum-half Terry Holmes from the club were chosen to tour with the Lions to South Africa in 1980, however Davies was the only one to start a Test match. The four went on to help Cardiff finally break their duck and win the WRU Challenge Cup (known as the Schweppes Cup for sponsorship reasons) with a 14-6 victory over Bridgend the following season, with Davies scoring two penalties and tries from centre Neil Hutchings and back-rower Robert Lakin. They repeated the feat in 1982, winning on try count thanks to a score from prop Ian Eidman after a 12-12 draw again against Bridgend, with the other points coming from fly-half David Barry, and also ended a 24-year wait by winning the Unofficial Welsh Championship, thereby completing the club's first (and so far only) league and cup double.
In 1983 Terry Holmes was again picked for the Lions, this time alongside second row Bob Norster. Both players were picked for the first team but Holmes was injured in the first Test and Norster in the second, ending their tours. Cardiff had been knocked in the quarter-finals of the 1982-83 cup by eventual winners Pontypool, but made it up for it with a third triumph in four years, beating Neath 24-19 in the final with tries from flanker Owen Golding and wing Gerald Cordle and 16 points from Gareth Davies. Then, on October 12, 1984, they beat Australia 16-12, thanks to eight points from Gareth Davies along with a penalty try and a score from Adrian Hadley. The same Australian side went on to compete a "Grand Slam" (beating England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland). Australia haven't played Cardiff RFC since, leaving the club with a perfect record of six wins from six games against the Wallabies (although Cardiff Blues did lose to Australia 31-3 in 2009). 1985 was very nearly another successful year for the club, beating Neath and Pontypool on their way to the Schweppes Cup final where, despite tries from wing Gerald Cordle and captain Alan Phillips alongside two penalties from Gareth Davies, they fell to an agonising 15-14 defeat to Llanelli. After this, Terry Holmes left the club to play rugby league.
The club bounced back immediately however, beating Newport in the final of 1985-86 cup final 28-21, with Adrian Hadley scoring a hat-trick, Holmes's replacement, scrum-half Neil O'Brien, bagging another try and 12 points coming from the boot of fly-half Gareth Davies  in his last game for the club against Welsh opposition before retiring. One year later, Cardiff were part of the first Challenge Cup final to go to extra time, with the scores 9-9 after 80 minutes, all Cardiff's points coming from the boot of Davies's replacement, Geraint John. Gerald Cordle scored to break the deadlock but the conversion was missed and Swansea scored a converted try soon after, putting them in the lead. But a late drop goal from full-back Mike Rayer won it for the Arms Park side capping one of the most successful periods in the club's history, with five Schweppes Cup victories in seven years.
In 1987, the first Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand. Cardiff props Dai Young, Jeff Whitefoot and Steve Blackmore, wing Adrian Hadley, centre Mark Ring and hooker Alan Phillips all were selected in Wales's squad (Young was called up as an injury replacement) which finished third. Cardiff's success began to tail off towards the end of the 1980s, with Adrian Hadley leaving for rugby league in 1988 and Gerald Cordle following in 89, and they could only manage two Cup quarter-finals and one semi-final appearance in the last three years of the decade. However, both Dai Young and Bob Norster were selected for the Lions tour to Australia in 1989, the only Lions team to come from 1-0 down to win the series. Young followed Hadley and Cordle to rugby league shortly after this, while Whitefoot and Norster both retired in 1990.
League rugby and introduction of professionalism
Cardiff joined the Welsh Premier Division on its launch in 1990, becoming champions of the division for the first time in the 1994-95 season. The following season, as rugby union became a professional game, they finished as runners-up of the inaugural Heineken Cup competition, losing to Toulouse in the final after the game went to extra time. Disagreements with the way the Welsh Rugby Union was running the Welsh league structure following the game's move to professionalism led to Cardiff and Swansea RFC boycotting the Premier Division for the 1998-99 season in favour of playing English opposition in friendlies, in what was dubbed the rebel season. On their return to the Premier Division the following year, Cardiff became champions for a second time.
Today, Cardiff RFC Ltd runs two sides. The Cardiff Blues now back at Cardiff Arms Park after three years playing at Cardiff City Stadium. The professional regional side, Cardiff Blues take part in the Pro12 league, Anglo-Welsh Cup and Heineken Cup. The Cardiff RFC club side take part in the Welsh Premier Division, WRU Challenge Cup and the British and Irish Cup.
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.
The Arms Park
Club Rugby games were moved to what was the cricket ground and a new stadium was built in 1969 as a result of an agreement between the Cardiff Athletic Club and the Welsh Rugby Union. On the site of the old Arms Park stadium, a new stadium was built, Welsh National Rugby Ground (also known as The National Stadium). In 1999, a brand new stadium was built in place of the National Stadium, which was named the Millennium Stadium. Cardiff Blues moved from the Arms Park for the 2009/10 season to play at the Cardiff City Stadium in Leckwith, Cardiff - the home of Cardiff City FC. After three seasons Cardiff Blues returned to their 'spiritual home' and will play the majority of future games at their traditional Arms Park home.
- Heineken Cup runners-up: 1996
- Middlesex 7s winners: 1939
- Snelling Sevens winners: 1955, 1966, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1983 and 1984.
- Welsh Cup: 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1994 and 1997
- Unofficial Welsh Club Champions: 1897-98; 1905–06; 1906–07; 1908–09; 1936–37; 1937–38; 1938–39; 1947–48; 1948–49; 1952–53; 1954–55; 1957–58; 1981–82;
- Welsh League: 1995
- Welsh/Scottish League: 2000
- Welsh Premiership: 2009
- IRB Hall of Fame: 2011
British and Irish Lions
The following former players were selected for the British and Irish Lions touring squads whilst playing for Cardiff RFC. Gareth Thomas was selected for the 2005 Lions tour whilst playing for Toulouse
Wales International Captains
The following former players captained the Wales national rugby union team whilst playing for Cardiff RFC.
See also Wales rugby union captains
Other notable former players
The following players represented Cardiff and were capped at international level, but do not warrant inclusion in the above two lists.
- See also Category:Cardiff RFC players
Since the advent of Regional Rugby in 2003 a number of Cardiff RFC Players have gone on to represent Wales (some whilst still playing for the club rather than the regional side). The Cardiff club side have also had a number of players selected for Wales at 7s and at U20 level. Those gaining full international honours include -
Games played against international opposition
- Davies, D.E. (1975). Cardiff Rugby Club, History and Statistics 1876-1975. Risca: The Starling Press. ISBN 0-9504421-0-0.
- Parry-Jones, David (1989). The Rugby Clubs of Wales. Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0-09-173850-1.
- Smith, David; Williams, Gareth (1980). Fields of Praise: The Official History of The Welsh Rugby Union. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-0766-3.
- Parry-Jones (1989), pg 59
- Parry-Jones (1989), pg 63
- Parry-Jones (1989), pg 64
- Davies (1975), pg 10
- Davies (1975), pg 11
- The 1874-75 Season historyofnewport.co.uk
- Davies (1975), pg 12
- Davies (1975), pg 13
- "Rees, Thomas William John (RS875TW)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Davies (1975), pg 19
- Smith (1980), pg 41
- Smith (1980), pg 61
- "Hancock and Cardiff inducted to Hall of Fame" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 2011-05-06. Retrieved 2011-05-07.
- "Heineken Cup 1995/6". BBC Sport Online.
- Laybourn, Ian (1998-08-22). "Rebel clubs secede from WRU". The Independent (Independent Print Limited).
- Vivian Jenkins, ed. (1976). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1976-77. Queen Anne Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-362-00281-9.
- Jenkins, Vivian (1977). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1977-78. Macdonald and Jane's. pp. 52–53. ISBN 0-354-09020-8.
- Jenkins, Vivian (1979). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1979-80. Macdonald and Jane's. p. 24. ISBN 0-354-09087-9.
- Jenkins, Vivian (1980). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1980-81. Queen Anne Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-362-02018-3.
- Fiji Rugby.com
- Robert Cole (10 October 1995). "Wales brace themselves for the giants of Fiji". The Independent. Retrieved 20 June 2008.[dead link]