The Greatest Women Rugby Players of All-Time

This is really something I should have done to coincide with the recent women’s World Cup but better late than never so here goes.
As with many team sports it can be difficult to assess who is the best individual player. I won’t be giving a definitive verdict on who is the best woman to have played the game but here are a few thoughts on who could be considered.

For some of the players who are now retired a good starting point is to look at the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

The first women to be inducted were these six players in 2014 with my brief notes on their achievements.

Nathalie Amiel (France) – 56 caps between 1986 and 2002

Gill Burns (England) – 73 caps from 1988 to 2002. Won the World Cup with England in 1994. Captain of England from 1994 to 1999 and the World Women’s XV in 2003.

Patty Jervey (USA) – 40 caps and 178 points between 1989 and 2006. World Cup winner in 1991.

Carol Isherwood (England) – Eight appearances for Great Britain and seven for England between 1986 and 1992. Captain of GB and England.

Anna Richards (New Zealand) – when she retired the most capped player for the Black Ferns with 49 and was their record points scorer with 89. She was in four World Cup winning squads between 1998 and 2010.

Farah Palmer (New Zealand) – captain of the World Cup winning Black Ferns in 1998, 2002, and 2006. Played 35 times for them between 1996 and 2006, scoring 25 points.  World player of the year in 2005.

Farah Palmer and Anna Richards are pictured in the foreground here

The two female players subsequently admitted to the Hall of Fame have been:

Heather Moyse (Canada) – leading try scorer at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.  In 2010 she was also top points scorer.

Maggie Alphonsi (England) – flanker for the England team which won the World Cup in 2014 and reached the final in 2010.  She was the first woman to win the Rugby Writers Award for the outstanding player in the world. World player of the year in 2006.

For players from a more recent vintage these names can be mentioned as some of the best.  Separate awards for the best Sevens player have been made since 2014.

Other women who have won the World Player of the Year are:

2001 Shelley Rae (England)

2002  Monique Hirovanaa (New Zealand)

2004 Donna Kennedy (Scotland) The world record caps holder in the women’s game with 115 between 1993 and 2010 for Scotland in the back-row.

2009 Debby Hodgkinson (Australia)

2010 Carla Hohepa (New Zealand) – leading try scorer in the World Cup

2013 Kayla McAlister (New Zealand Sevens player)

2014 Magali Harvey (Canada) , Emilee Cherry (Australia Sevens.  Top try and points scorer in the World Sevens Series)

2015 Kendra Cocksedge (New Zealand – top points scorer in World Series), Portia Woodman (New Zealand Sevens)

2016 Sarah Hunter (England – captain),  Charlotte Caslick (Australia Sevens – Olympic gold medal winning team)


Looking at some of the record holders for internationals among the top nations gives some more great players.

Fiao’o Faamausili is the first New Zealand player to win fifty caps and has captained her country since 2012.  She has been part of three World Cup winning squads.

Kendra Cocksedge has scored more than 130 points for New Zealand and 63 at the 2017 World Cup.  Portia Woodman was the leading scorer at the World Cup with 65.

Rochelle “Rocky” Clark of England is the most capped player in the history of the women’s game with over 130 caps.  She was in the World Cup winning team in 2014 and has scored over 100 points for her country in a fifteen year international career.

Katy McLean has scored more than 400 points for England and played over ninety times.

Her English record points total was overtaken by Emily Scarratt at the 2017 World Cup.

Emily Scarratt

As I said it is hard to choose but if pushed I would go for Anna Richards for winning so much and setting records that have only been eclipsed since more regular internationals have been played.

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The History of Sport 1912: Stockholm Olympics – Jim Thorpe’s double, Kolehmainen’s treble, Swahn wins gold aged 64

Some of the notable events in sport in 1912

In baseball Boston Red Sox open the new Fenway Park with a 7–6 11-inning win over New York Yankees before 27,000

A triangular Test cricket tournament is played in England between England, Australia and South Africa. England wins with Australia second.

John Ball wins his eighth Amateur golf title.

Billy Papke (USA) wins the world middleweight boxing title for the fourth time.  Britain’s Sid Smith wins the first world flyweight title but loses it later in the year to countryman Bill Cadbury.

The All-England Women’s Lacrosse Association is formed.

Frank Wootton wins his fourth successive British flat jockeys title.

The first British gliding club, the Amberley Aviation Society is founded in Arundel.

The first slot-car racing, Lionel Racing Automobiles (electric), takes place in the USA.

The International Amateur Wrestling Federation is formed.

World Pairs Figure Skating Champions are Phyllis Johnson and James H. Johnson for the second time.

British Isles regain the Davis Cup by defeating Australasia 3-2.

Fred Covey of Britain wins the world Real Tennis title.


Olympic Games held in Stockholm

Twenty-eight nations and 2,408 competitors, including 48 women, competed in 102 events in 14 sports.
The games were the first to have art competitions, women’s diving, women’s swimming, and the first to feature both the decathlon and the new pentathlon, both won by Jim Thorpe. Electric timing was introduced in athletics, while the host country disallowed boxing, the only time the sport hasn’t featured in the modern Olympics. Figure skating was rejected by the organizers because they wanted to promote the Nordic Games. United States won the most gold medals (25), while Sweden won the most medals overall (65).

The first world record in the 100 metres for men is recognised by the International Amateur Athletics Federation, now known as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), after Donald Lippincott (USA) runs a time of 10.6 at Stockholm.

American Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and the newly created decathlon. He was disqualified and stripped of his medals for violation of the rules of amateurism, as he had played two seasons’ worth of semi-professional baseball before coming to the Games. In 1982, those medals were restored by the IOC.
Hannes Kolehmainen was the most successful athlete, winning three individual golds and setting records at the games, with new Olympic Records set in the 5,000, 10,000 metre and cross country races.

Britain’s Ernest Webb wins his third medal for walking at his second Games.  Britain also wins gold through Arnold Jackson in the 1500m and the 4 x 100m relay team.  Erik Lemming of Sweden retains his javelin title, his seventh medal.  Mel Sheppard (USA) wins his fourth Olympic gold medal.

Alberto Braglia (Italy) retains his Olympic gymnastics all-round title.

William Kinnear of Britain wins the single sculls rowing gold.  Britain win the Eights title.

Britain win the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay swimming gold.  Britain win the water polo gold for the third time.

Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon make a first appearance at the modern Olympics.

In football Great Britain retained its gold medal against Denmark in front of 25,000 spectators. Goals from Harold Walden, Arthur Berry and two from Gordon Hoare helped Britain to win by a margin of 4–2.  Gottfried Fuchs of Germany scores ten goals in a match v Russia that they win 16-0.

64-year-old Oscar Swahn, part of the Swedish single shot running deer team wins gold, he is still the oldest gold medal winner in Olympic history

The longest recorded wrestling bout ever takes place with the bout between Anders Ahlgren of Sweden and Ivar Böhling of Finland for the gold medal lasting more than nine hours. The match was then declared a draw with both athletes being awarded the silver medal as neither won the match.

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British Sports Hall of Fame 1938: Edgar Baerlein, Alex James, Gladys Lunn and Gwen Neligan

My choices for the British Sports Hall of Fame for 1938 are

Edgar Baerlein (Rackets and Real Tennis) – winner of the British Amateur rackets singles title a record nine times and the British Amateur real tennis singles title thirteen times.  He was also rackets doubles champion six times.  He won his first real tennis crown in 1912 but only really concentrated on the sport after World War I and dominated the event until 1930.  His number of singles titles remained the record until 1979.  He stayed at the top of real tennis at doubles until 1937 when he won his eleventh British title.  In 1931 he won the first British Open singles title when aged 51.  Internationally in 1923 he became the only man to beat the great American Jay Gould during his twenty year supremacy at real tennis from 1907 to 1926.

Alex James (Football) – one of the finest midfielders of the 1930s, he was a key player in the Arsenal team which dominated the English game in that decade.  He won the league four times and the FA Cup twice between 1930 and 1936 with Arsenal where he was used in a deep-lying role.  In his earlier career with Raith Rovers and Preston he had played in a more attacking position scoring eighty goals as an inside-forward.  Despite this great club success he only appeared eight times for Scotland following disputes with selectors.  He was one of the most famous sportsmen in Britain between the Wars.

Gladys Lunn  (Athletics) – one of the best middle-distance runners in the world for a decade in the  early days of women’s competition.  In 1925 she set a world best for the 880 yards with a time of 2:24.8.  She took more than six seconds of this time in 1930 when winning the first of five British titles at the distance.  In 1930 she won the World Women’s Games title at 800m.  In 1936 she set a world best for the mile and reduced that record twice down to a time of 5 minutes 17 seconds.  She also set two world records for the 1000m.  She was also a fine javelin thrower and won British titles at that event.  At the 1934 Empire Games she won the 880y and javelin and took bronze in javelin at the 1938 Games.  She was also international cross-country champion in 1931 and 1932.

Gwen Neligan (Fencing) – winner of the 1933 fencing European Championships title.  These championships were later awarded world championships status so she can be regarded as Britain’s first female world champion.  She won team silver medals at the championships in 1933 and 1934 when she narrowly missed out on defending her title.  She was British champion each year from 1934 to 1937.

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History of Sport 1911: First Indianapolis 500 and Monte Carlo Rally, Salchow’s 10th title, Larned’s 7th US Open

Some of the main events in sport from 1911.

John McDermott becomes both the first American-born man and the youngest golfer (19 years, 10 months) to win the US Open
Harold Hilton became the only British player to win the British and U.S. Amateur golf championships in the same year.
Harry Vardon wins his fifth Open Golf championship.

In Canadian football the 3rd Grey Cup is won, as were the first two, by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues who win14–7 against theToronto Argonauts.
The first use of the “mountain” circuit on the Isle of Man TT motorcycling course.


The first Indianapolis 500 motor race is held. It was won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon Wasp at an average speed of 75 mph.


The first Monte Carlo Rally is held. It is won by Henri Rougier in a Turcat-Mery.

Ulrich Salchow wins his record tenth world figure skating title (his fifth in succession)
Lily Kronberger (Hungary) wins her fourth successive world figure skating title.
Five Nations Championship series is won by Wales who complete the inaugural Grand Slam by defeating all four of its opponents


In tennis the singles finals at Wimbledon made history as in the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championship – Anthony Wilding (New Zealand) defeats Herbert Barrett (GB) who retired with the match at two sets all.  The only time that the title has been won on a retirement.
In the Women’s Singles Championship  Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers defeats Dora Boothby 6–0 6–0.  The only time the losing finalist has failed to win a game.
Bill Larned wins his seventh US Open singles title (still a record), his fifth consecutive title, at the age of 38 years and 242 days.
Australasia win their fourth successive International Tennis Challenge (Davis Cup) title.


Cy Young ends his baseball career with a record 511 games won as a pitcher since 1890.

In show-jumping the first King George V Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious individual competitions, is held.

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A short quiz on women’s cricket

In the first of an occasional series of quizzes,  here are fifteen questions on the history of women’s cricket to coincide with the final of the World Cup .  Answers at the bottom of the page.


1. In 1958 Betty Wilson was the first player (man or woman) to take 10 wickets and score a century in the same Test. In this match she also became the first woman to achieve which other feat.

2. What is the name of the great English all-rounder (pictured) from Nottinghamshire who In Tests scored 1,078 runs at an average of 59.88, with 4 centuries, as well as taking 50 wickets at an average of 16.62 between 1968 and 1979?

3. Which well-known personality was England captain when the team won the first women’s world cup in 1973, two years before the first men’s World Cup?

4. Which English player was her country’s leading batsman between 1979 and 1998. Her total of 1,935 runs scored at an average of 49, is a record for Test matches?

5. In the 1997 world cup Australia scored a record 412 runs against which unlikely opponents from a nation not well known for cricket?
6. Over how many days does a women’s test match take place?

7. What is the main difference between men’s and women’s cricket in deciding which team wins an Ashes series?

8. In 2000 which nation became the only other team apart from England and Australia to win cricket world cup?

9. Which two European nations other than England have played test cricket, each having played just one match?


10. In 2014 the woman in the picture became the first female player inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. She is the record holder for most test and One Day International runs, and ODI appearances for Australia.  Can you name her?

11. In 2009 which England batsman (on the right in the picture above) was the first woman to be named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year. She was leading run scorer in the 2009 World Cup and was named player of the tournament in England’s winning Twenty20 team?
12. Which team won three successive World Twenty20 titles between 2010 and 2014?

13. Which English batsman (on the left in the picture above) became the first player, man or woman, to score 2500 runs in T20 internationals?

14. Which team won the women’s world Twenty20 Cup in 2016? Their men’s team also won their equivalent tournament.

15. Which Indian player, (pictured) the captain of their team in the 2017 World Cup, is the leading run scorer in ODIs?




  1. She took the first Women’s Test hat-trick.
  2. Enid Bakewell
  3. Rachel Heyhoe-Flint
  4. Janette Brittin
  5. Denmark, who were making their only appearance in the competition.
  6. Four days, compared to men who play over five, although women are expected to bowl more overs in a day.
  7. The men’s Ashes series is only played in Test matches.  The women play a mixture of Test matches and limited overs games worth different points.  The highest points score wins the series.
  8. New Zealand
  9. Ireland and The Netherlands
  10. Belinda Clark
  11. Claire Taylor
  12. Australia
  13. Charlotte Edwards
  14. West Indies
  15. Mithali Raj




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World Sports Hall of Fame 1937: Frank Burge, Johan Grottumsbraten, Sonja Henie and Fred Perry

My choices for the World Sports Hall of Fame for 1937 are:


Frank Burge (Australia – Rugby League) – one of the greatest forwards in the history of rugby league, who was noted for his scoring ability. On the Australia tour of Britain in 1920/1 he scored 33 tries in 23 matches. This is the record for any forward on a tour. He could play anywhere in the forwards and could also kick goals. His career started at the age of 14 in rugby union where he is the youngest player at grade level in history. He switched to League and made his club debut for Glebe aged 16. He first played for New South Wales at 18 and for his country two years later. He played thirteen times for Australia from 1914 to 1922 scoring seven tries. In his club career from 1911 to 1927 he scored 146 tries in 167 games, a total not beaten by a forward for nearly eighty years. and was top scorer in the league three times, an amazing feat for a forward. In 1920 he scored eight tries in one match, a record.

Johan Grøttumsbraaten (Norway – Nordic Skiing) – the dominant figure in Nordic skiing and Nordic combined in the 1920s and early 1930s. He won three medals at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924 and in 1928 he won golds in cross-country and Nordic combined to become the most successful athlete at the Games. He retained the combined title in 1932. He won three world championship titles, including a double in 1931. He is one of only four men to win the Holmenkollen Nordic Combined event five times, which he did begtween 1923 and 1931.

Sonja Henie (Norway – Figure Skating) – the most successful figure skater in the history of the sport. She was unbeaten from 1927 to 1936, winning a record ten consecutive world titles in those years, the European title each year from 1931 to 1936 and the Olympic golds of 1928,1932 and 1936.  Those three Olympic titles also remain a record total unmatched by any female solo figure skater.  She had made her Olympic debut 11 in 1924 and was second in the 1926 world championships, her last defeat.  She revolutionised the sport with her flair and style to become the most popular skater the world has seen.  Following her retirement from the sport she went into films.  She was one of the greatest movie stars of the 1930s.

Fred Perry (Great Britain – Tennis) – arguably the greatest British tennis player ever. He won the Wimbledon men’s singles title each year from 1934 to 1936, the US Open three times (in 1933,1934 and 1936) the French Open in 1935 and the Australian Open in 1934.  These eight titles made him the first man to win all of the major singles.  He also won two men’s doubles and four mixed doubles titles in Grand Slams.  In Davis Cup he won nine out of ten singles matches and 45 out of 52 matches overall.  This helped Britian win the Cup every year from 1933 to 1936. He continued to play tennis for some years after turning professional at the end of the 1936 season.

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The History of Sport – 1910: Meriel Lucas sets the record for All-England Badminton titles, Boxing’s first “fight of the century”

1910 was a fairly quiet one in sport but here are some of the notable events from that year:

In football Manchester United move from Bank Street to present home Old Trafford.

Celtic win their sixth successive Scottish league title.

In boxing’s first “fight of the century”, Jack Johnson knocks out the “great white hope” James J. Jeffries in the 15th round to retain his World Heavyweight Championship title.

In ice-hockey the National Hockey Association (NHA) commences its inaugural season

In rugby union France joins the Home Nations Championship which then becomes the Five Nations Championship. They lose 49-14 to Wales in Swansea with Billy Bancroft kicking eight conversions and a penalty (a record number of goals in an international match).

The International Skiing Commission is founded in Christiania (Oslo).

Trampolines are used in show-business performances by “The Walloons”.

The first steel-shafted golf clubs are patented by Arthur Knight of Schenectady, New York.

Meriel Lucas wins her sixth All-England women’s singles badminton title. She also wins her tenth women’s doubles title to finish her career with 17 titles since 1899. This remains a record for a woman.

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