10 Historic Sporting Events in London – 7. The first Five Nations game played at Twickenham…

August 22, 2012

Twickenham was only a new ground when, in 1910, a England played Wales in what was the first international to be played at the ground – part of the first of what later became officially recognised as the Five Nations competition.

The game played on 15th January, 1910, was only the second to be played in the competition and followed Wales defeat of France in Swansea earlier in the month. A crowd of about 18,000 watched as England defeated Wales 11-6 (England went on to win the competition, winning three matches and drawing the match they played against Ireland).

Twickenham, meanwhile, had only hosted its inaugural match the year before when local sides the Harlequins and Richmond played (the Harlequins won, 14-10). The Rugby Football Union had purchased 10.25 acres of land in Twickenham – previously a market garden – after witnessing the crowds at international rugby contests held at Crystal Palace in south-east London in 1905 and 1906 and decided they needed a ground of their own.

The pitch was raised to prevent flooding and covered stands were build on the east and west side of the pitch, a terrace at the south end and an open mound at the north along with space f0r 200 automobiles or carriages.

The ground – the pitch of which was used for grazing animals in World War I – was developed further in the following years until World War II when it was used as a civil defence depot.

The next major development occurred in the late 1970s/early 1980s when the south terrace was controversially replaced with the South Stand. A new North Stand followed in 1991, a new East Stand in 1993 and a new West Stand in 1995. What was then known as the Museum of Rugby, based at Twickenham Stadium, was opened to the public the following year.

The most recent work has again been on the South Stand which was reopened in 2006 and brought the capacity of the ground to 82,000.

Other landmark games among the many played at Twickenham include the 1959 Twickenham Jubilee celebration match between England and Wales versus Ireland and Scotland (England and Wales won, 26-17) and the final of the 1991 Rugby World Cup (Australia defeated England 12-6). Twickenham will also host the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

There are regular tours of the ground (it’s advised to book these in advance) with highlights including the England dressing room, royal box, hospitality suites, medical room, player’s tunnel onto the pitch, a panoramic view of the arena from the top of the stand and a walk pitchside.

The tour also includes a visit to the World Rugby Museum (it’s possible to just buy tickets to the museum). Located in the East Stand (and known between 1996 and 2007 as the Museum of Rugby), the museum is home to some 25,000 artefacts – everything from a 1910 England v Ireland programme to pieces of kit worn by players from the earliest days of the game, a ceremonial wahaiki (or war cleaver) presented to the RFU by New Zealand Maoris in 1989, and the Calcutta Cup – dating from 1878 and made from the melted down silver coins (the savings of the now defunct Calcutta Rugby Club), it is presented to the winners of annual England versus Scotland match played as part of the RBS 6 Nations Championship.

The museum also houses the Twickenham Wall of Fame, described as “a celebration of the best players from all over the world that have ever played at Twickenham Stadium”. There are also a series of blue plaques around the stadium celebrating some of the best players.

WHERE: Twickenham Stadium, Whitton Road, Twickenham (nearest station is Twickenham); WHEN: Museum is open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday/11am to 5pm Sunday; Tours are run at select times Tuesday to Sunday – check website for details including scheduled closures; COST: £7 an adult/£5 concessions for museum only; £15 and adult/£9 concessions/£45 family ticket; WEBSITE: www.rfu.com/twickenhamstadium.

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