The most unwanted rugby records
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The bitter taste of defeat is familiar to some more than others but no one is more in need of a refreshing palate cleanser than Sergio Parisse.
Italy’s defeat to Six Nations rivals Wales in Cardiff on Sunday took the Azzurri’s talismanic No.8 to the brink of becoming the first player to have featured in 100 Test defeats.
If Scotland condemn Italy to yet another Wooden Spoon in Rome on Saturday then he will enter a rather exclusive club and lay claim to one of the sport’s unwanted records.
It is a credit to Parisse’s mental strength that he has managed to weather such and seemingly demoralising toll an still maintain an enviable level of personal performance throughout a 16-year international career that to date has earned him 133 caps.
As captain of his country for the last decade, he has also had the unenviable responsibility of fronting up to the media to explain his own side’s shortcomings and perhaps the more difficult challenge of repeatedly lifting the spirits of his players.
A 64-10 mauling at the hands of New Zealand in his first Test appearance was perhaps predictable but five subsequent victories in his first 11 Tests suggested that maybe he could carve out a career to match his outstanding ability – but it was not to be with Parisse unable to inspire similar greatness from most of those around him.
Incredibly he has never enjoyed more than two successive victories on the international stage and what must surely have been the most deflating run of results came between 2008-10 when he was on the wrong side of the result on 17 consecutive occasions.
Another disappointing career milestone looms this weekend but Parisse can take solace from the fact that his place in the history of the sport is already assured as one of the greatest players of a star-studded generation.
Parisse is not the only player with a blemish on his rugby CV as illustrated in this selection of ‘unwanted international rugby records’.
First red card in international rugby
New Zealand’s Cyril Brownlie became the first player to be sent off in an international when he was dismissed during his side’s final tour clash with England in 1925. Referee Albert Freethy took the unprecedented step having seen Brownlie stamp on rival Reg Edwards in the early stages of what was a heated contest at Twickenham. ‘The Invincibles’ would still go on to win the game 17-11 and complete a perfect winning record.
First red card at a Rugby World Cup
Wales second row Huw Richards became the first player to be sent off at the sport’s showpiece event when he was dismissed in the closing moments of his side’s 49-6 defeat to New Zealand in their 1987 World Cup semi-final clash.
Richards reportedly took exception to an elbow from Gary Whetton and punched his All Blacks rival before being floored himself by Wayne Shelford. Richards got to his feet only to be ordered from the field by referee Kerry Fitzgerald while Shelford escaped punishment.
First yellow card
England’s Ben Clarke was the first player to be issued a yellow card in a Test match after he stamped on Ireland’s Simon Geoghegan during their Five Nations Championship clash in Dublin in 1995. However, referee Patrick Thomas merely ‘showed’ Clarke the card as at the time it was used as a warning only.
The first player to experience the ‘sin-bin’ was Australia’s James Holbeck who was forced to leave the field for 10 minutes during the Wallabies clash with South Africa in Pretoria during the 1997 Tri-Nations. The ‘sin-bin’ had been introduced that year as trial and would eventually be written into Law in 2000.
First red card in Five Nations
Wales second row Geoff Wheel and Ireland No.8 Willie Duggan made history during their Five Nations clash in Cardiff in 1977 when they became the first players in Championship’s long history to be sent off. Referee Norman Sanson gave them their marching orders for their roles in a brawl during Wales’ 25-9 victory at the Arms Park.
First red card in Tri-Nations
South Africa’s André Venter became the first player to be sent off during a Tri-Nations clash when he was dismissed against New Zealand in Auckland back in 1997. Referee Derek Bevan saw no other option after Venter reportedly ‘stomped all over the face of All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick’.
Biggest Test defeat
Paraguay and Chinese Taipei can lay claim to a share of this record with both having suffered eye-watering defeats. Paraguay conceded 24 tries on their way to a 152-0 defeat to South American rivals Argentina in 2002 and later the same year Chinese Taipei were crushed 155-3 by Japan.
Biggest World Cup loss
With the eyes of the entire rugby world upon them, Namibia were annihilated 142-0 by tournament hosts Australia in 2003. Wallabies full back Chris Latham was the tormentor-in-chief in Adelaide and he finished the game with five tries.
Most red cards
Three players share the shame of having been sent off not once but twice in their international careers. Uruguay’s Mario Cagnani, Samoa’s and the United States’ Paul Emerick head that particular ‘roll of dishonour’.
Most matches without a try
New Zealand’s Owen Franks has worn the famous All Blacks jersey a total of 95 times but has yet to dot down for a try. “I think it’s got to the point now where he doesn’t want to score one, where he wants a record,” commented All Blacks coach Steve Hansen back in 2016. “He’s pretty proud of it I think.”
Most yellow cards
Australia’s Michael Hooper is in danger of spending more time in the ‘cooler’ than Steve McQueen did in The Great Escape having been sin-binned a total of eight times in his 79-Test career.
Most replacement appearances
No one strives to be the second best at their chosen profession but sometimes circumstances dictate that you play a supporting role. New Zealand’s Keven Mealamu may have started more games on the bench (55 out of a total of 132) but he has two Rugby World Cup winners medals to keep him company. Ireland’s Sean Cronin arguably takes this honour having begun 51 of his 60 Test appearances in a tracksuit.
Most Test defeats
Parisse is already the owner of this record by some way – with Martin Castrogiovanni second on the list with 88 – and it is perhaps not surprising that Italians occupy 11 of the ‘top’ 12 places on the list given their exposure to regular top tier opposition since they joined the Six Nations party in 2000.
By Graham Jenkins, Rugbypass