Arthur Smith (rugby union)
|Full name||Arthur Robert Smith|
|Date of birth||23 January 1933|
|Place of birth||Castle Douglas|
|University||Glasgow University, Cambridge University|
|Rugby union career|
Arthur Robert Smith (23 January 1933 - 3 February 1975) was a wing of extraordinary ability and intelligence. He captained both Scotland and the British Lions. He won 33 caps for Scotland and was never dropped until his retirement in 1962, although he did miss the odd match due to injury. He also became Scotland's captain, which is a rare honour for a winger.
His debut was in 1955, a dark age for Scottish rugby, as the national team had just lost seventeen tests in a row. Smith helped to break this losing streak by scoring a try in a 35-10 defeat of Wales at Inverleith, which was probably one of the biggest upsets in post-war rugby.
Originally from Castle Douglas in south west Scotland, he graduated in mathematics at Glasgow University and then gained a PhD at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. He represented Cambridge in four Varsity Matches from 1954 to 1957 inclusive. It was at Cambridge that he came to flourish as a player.
Richard Bath writes of him that
- "As well as possessing searing pace, the farmer's son from Castle Douglas in Galloway also possessed great intellect and gained a first class degree in maths from Glasgow University before completing his PhD at Cambridge - and all that while winning 33 caps for Scotland."
He was twice a British Lion, both times in South Africa (1955 and 1962). Smith did not play in any of the internationals against South Africa in 1955 but he captained the touring party in 1962 and played in the first three internationals before being forced to miss the final match through injury.
Smith played for a number of sides including Glasgow University, Cambridge University, London Scottish F C, Gosforth, Ebbw Vale, Edinburgh Wanderers and Barbarians FC (the latter on their famous 1957 Easter tour of Wales, when they beat Cardiff RFC 40-0). One of the clubs that Arthur played for was Ebbw Vale, in Wales, and it is rumoured that having been selected by the British Lions that he played a game for Ebbw Vale under another name because Lions were banned for playing after Easter.
Allan Massie writes of him that:
- "He was a natural rather than a schooled player, for in his youth he had played [association] football, not Rugby; at Glasgow University he was better known as a long jumper than a Rugby player."
- "He was never a great improviser, like his contemporary England's Peter Jackson, and for this reason many would have put him in second place among the right wings of his time; and he was not the sort of wing who impressed by his brute force and determination. But he was still a deadly finisher. With the ball in hand his two chief devices were the swerve and the change of pace; I have seen no wing to better his control of pace, nor one with a nicer ability to leave an opposing wing or full-back clutching the air... He was always skilful and resourceful, very rarely prepared to let an attack die. He was a master of that now neglected ploy, the cross-kick, which placed the ball just behind the opposing defence for his forwards to run on to... Those of us who watched Arthur Smith have only to close our eyes to see him slip into top gear, like a thoroughbred racehorse. Nobody has ever worn the Number 14 jersey for Scotland since with quite the same authority."
Sadly, Arthur Smith died of cancer less than ten years after playing his last international.
- Bath, Richard (ed.) The Complete Book of Rugby (Seven Oaks Ltd, 1997 ISBN 1-86200-013-1)
- Massie, Allan A Portrait of Scottish Rugby (Polygon, Edinburgh; ISBN 0-904919-84-6)
- Bath, p159
- Massie, p145
- Massie, p146
- Massie, pp146-7
- Massie, p147
- Arthur Smith (The Scotsman)