Sunday 22 June 2014

Wartime Rugby

Below is an extract from an article published in Issue 46 of Rugby League Journal. The article is taken from the chapter on the relationship with Rugby League in my book about Yorkshire Rugby Union in World War Two called ‘Let Them Play By All Means’.
During World War Two rugby league players in the Services were allowed to take part in Services rugby union games against other Services teams and also against clubs but, were not ‘officially’ allowed to take part in club versus club fixtures.

‘Did rugby league players take part in club versus club games? I think almost certainly in Yorkshire they did. Pocklington was a rugby union club that welcomed the involvement of players from both codes; I hardly think they were alone. Many wartime fixtures were not reported and team lists were not submitted to a Governing Body. So, it is very likely that if a man appeared at a rugby union ground with a pair of boots and a request to play, he would be welcomed, with no questions asked, especially in the dark days of the war when the rugby union clubs that were still playing often struggled to find fifteen players.
Certainly in York and probably in other rugby league towns the reverse was happening and rugby union players were playing for professional rugby league clubs. York Rugby League Club was quite open about including rugby union players in its team. On 13th March 1943, W.E. Jones, a Welsh international who had played his club rugby for Swansea and Neath, was included in the York team that played at Leeds in the Challenge Cup. York lost the game but Jones made a good impression. The rugby league club was keen to include him the following week but he was required to be in Wales for a club fixture. Around this time, York were including a number of other rugby union players in their teams, reporting that fact in the local newspaper. Evidently neither they nor the players received any warnings or sanctions. There were many international rugby union players stationed in the North of England during the war and it is very unlikely that W.E. Jones was the only one who played for a professional rugby league club.’

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