Rugby Union: Decline of blacksmith's legend: Guy Hodgson finds an industrial revolution has changed forever the image of jobs for the boys in international rugby union

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The Independent Online
THE image was straight from Three Men in a Boat. Scotland selected Peter Wright to fill the hole in their scrum this week and it was like slipping on a threadbare but lovingly preserved old sweater. It was a throwback to a golden age when legend would have it you could shout down a pit and unearth an England fast bowler. Now you would get an impending redundancy.

Wright is a blacksmith and to have the Scottish pack propped up by muscles made hammer-hard by the pounding of metal was reason enough to bring out and pass round the nostalgia. There probably never was a time when the village smithy was the cornerstone of every rugby team, but whose imagination would deny it?

Wright's profession is an anachronism in an age when rugby players are more likely to be leading figures in the City than imposing physiques honed down the coal- mine or strengthened by toil on the land. The synonymous link between the pits and the Welsh rugby team was broken in the Thirties and replaced by a breed of men with less physically demanding professions. Now an average rugby player builds his strength with gymnasium weights in his free time, his work exercising only the fingers which labour over a keyboard.

When England met Wales in Cardiff yesterday, the starting line-ups included eight players who spend a good proportion of their time staring at terminals. BBC Television chose the theme 'different professions, same job' to promote their coverage of the match, the corporation voice telling us, 'England go to work.'

And what a diverse selection there was. Peter Winterbottom ruthlessly pursued the opposition half-backs yesterday having honed his aggression on the Eurobond markets, Will Carling led the visitors after a week of courses teaching the principles of man management and Jonathan Webb's tackles could have put men into the hospital where he works as an orthopaedic surgeon.

The Welsh, too, hardly pursue jobs that instil fear. Carling's opposite number, Ieuan Evans, patrolled the wing for his country having chased up and down Britain's motorways to the tune of 40,000 miles a year as a leasing manager for a bank, while Stuart Davies played at No 8 fresh from his duties as an environmental health officer with Swansea City Council.

There was not a miner on the pitch in Cardiff and only the inclusion of Gareth Llewellyn at lock paid lip-service to that other great instution of south Wales, the steelworks. But if technology has slowly brought to a close the era when heavy industry provided the heavyweights of the Five Nations' Championship, the teaching profession has been dealt a swifter death.

When England beat Wales in Cardiff 30 years ago there were eight schoolmasters on the pitch and some of the 11 students were destined for the chalk and gown, too. Yesterday, there were no teachers and only two students. Teachers could once have provided a Lions team, now they would be hard put to add up to a XV worthy of meeting a junior club.

At least France could boast one schoolmaster, Marc Cecillon, but he was the exception rather than the rule against Scotland, a match which included enough sales reps for a convention. Only the clash of the stonemasons Graham Shiel and Jean-Francois Tordo was redolent of the age of blacksmiths and LNER-liveried steam trains.

Ireland, whitewashed in the Five Nations last season and uncompromisingly beaten by Scotland three weeks ago, may not be thriving on the field but they are successes off it. Their team at Murrayfield was sufficently middle-class to have passed muster at Ascot and their threequarter line of an articled clerk, banker, insurance agent and investment consultant reads like a financial-services advert.

They may not have sold a dummy since 1990, but they could sell you a nifty line in personal cover. And, in their full-back, Colin Wilkinson, provide a solicitor, too.

ENGLAND

Doctor: Jonathan Webb

Commercial artist: Ian Hunter

Marketing/promotion: Will Carling

Marketing: Jeremy Guscott

RAF pilot: Rory Underwood

Chartered surveyor: Rob Andrew

Financial Consultant: Dewi Morris

Builder: Jason Leonard, Mike Teague

Solicitor: Brian Moore

Furniture maker: Jeff Probyn

Policeman: Martin Bayfield, Wade Dooley

Eurobond dealer: Peter Winterbottom

Farmer: Ben Clarke

WALES

Metal worker: Mike Rayer

Bank leasing manager: Ieuan Evans

TV researcher: Scott Gibbs

Surveyor: Mike Hall

Student: Wayne Proctor

Builder: Neil Jenkins

Business development executive: Robert Jones

Fireman: Ricky Evans

Student: Nigel Meek

Policeman: Hugh Williams-Jones, Emyr Lewis

Steel worker: Gareth Llewellyn

Sales rep: Tony Copsey, Richard Webster

Environmental health officer: Stuart Davies

SCOTLAND

Marketing exec: Gavin Hastings

Banker: Tony Stanger

Advertising account manager: Scott Hastings

Stonemason: Graham Shiel

Chef: Derek Stark

Marketing: Craig Chalmers

Lorry driver: Gary Armstrong

Blacksmith: Peter Wright

Sales rep: Ken Milne, Paul Burnell

Electrical engineer: Andy Reed

Sales manager: Damian Cronin

Policeman: Derek Turnbull

Student: Doddie Weir

Money broker: Iain Morrison

FRANCE

Wine trader: Jean-Baptiste Lafond

Sponsorship agent: Philippe Saint- Andre

Sports shop director: Philippe Sella

Physiotherapist: Thierry Lacroix

Student: Pierre Hontas

Public relations executive: Didier Camberabero

Businessman: Louis Armary

Stonemason: Jean-Francois Tordo

Sales rep: Laurent Seigne, Abdelatif Benazzi, Laurent Cabannes, Aubin Hueber

Surveyor: Olivier Roumat

Council worker: Philippe Benetton

Teacher: Marc Cecillon

IRELAND

Solicitor: Colin Wilkinson

Articles clerk: Simon Geoghegan

Banker: Vince Cunningham

Insurance consultant: Paul Danaher

Banking investment consultant: Richard Wallace

Student: Niall Malone

Sales manager: Michael Bradley

Warehouse manager: Nick Popplewell

Sports rep: Steve Smith

Service engineer: Paul McCarthy

Publican: Richard Costello

Dental student: Paddy Johns

Farmer: Phil Lawlor

Sales rep: Noel Mannion

Engineer: Denis McBride

(Photograph omitted)

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