Ruck and Maul: Move over Henson, we've found a dancing rugby star who was also a war hero

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The Independent Online

We wish Gavin Henson well in his comeback from 19 months of injury and a reality TV diet of electric shocks, Arctic exploration and ballroom dancing to play for Saracens, who will also soon be rehabilitating the prop Matt Stevens after a two-year drugs suspension. But Henson's rediscovered devotion to sporting duty will have to go some to match a hero from another age, Stanley Wakefield Harris. A wing for Blackheath, Stan made his debut for England in 1920 and, after emigrating to South Africa, appeared in two Tests there for the British Isles in 1924. Harris also represented South Africa at boxing and tennis, and although historians claim erroneously that he won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon – he reached the last 16 with Joan Ridley in 1930 – Stan did win titles at Queen's and Roehampton the previous year. Oh, and Lieutenant Colonel Harris CBE also spent three years as a Japanese POW in Siam during the Second World War. And to keep himself busy while convalescing after World War One – he was wounded at the Battle of the Somme – he took up ballroom dancing to a championship standard.



Fining the French is a bit rich

In addition to handing Saracens' Brendan Venter his third misconduct charge of the year, European Rugby Cup Ltd have called in Montpellier to explain their fielding of a weakened squad in the Amlin Challenge Cup, as highlighted in this column last month. The club who were top of the French Championship before yesterday's match at Bayonne can expect a fine over the omission of nine leading players including internationals Fulgence Ouedraogo, François Trinh-Duc, Julien Tomas and Benjamin Thiery. Surely a case of stable doors and bolting horses? The deadline to register squads was 16 September, three weeks before the competition began. That was when Montpellier should have had the book thrown at them, not now.



Ireland tickets climbdown

The Irish Rugby Football Union has been forced into a partial climbdown over its ticketing policy for the autumn internationals. Home-based supporters going through the clubs and provinces were initially required to buy tickets for all four matches or risk seeing none of them. This has since been broken down into two-match packages for Ireland versus South Africa/Samoa and Ireland versus New Zealand/Argentina. The same will apply in next year's Six Nations, with adults needing to buy France and England tickets jointly at €250 (£200) the pair.



Silver Ferns thrive in autumn

After much examination of the archives, Ruck and Maul is delighted to reveal our exclusive league table of autumn international results. The table covers all the Tri Nations teams' autumn tour matches in Europe against any of the Six Nations since the fixtures became prevalent in 1997. World Cups are excluded. Congratulations to New Zealand, the kings of the autumn (although they call it spring) with 27 victories, two draws and two defeats, and a 90 per cent success rate. Followed by South Africa (W21 D0 L14, 60 per cent), Australia (W18 D3 L12, 59 per cent), England (W11 D2 L12, 48 per cent), France (W8 D1 L10, 45 per cent), Ireland (W5 D1 L7, 42 per cent), Wales (W2 D1 L15, 14 per cent), Scotland (W2 D0 L13, 13 per cent) and Italy (W0 D0 L9, 0 per cent).

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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