1899 British Lions tour to Australia

The 1899 British Isles tour to Australia was the fourth rugby union tour by a British Isles team and the second to Australia; though the first tour in 1888 was a private venture, making the 1899 tour the first official undertaking of Australia. It is retrospectively classed as one of the British Lions tours, as the Lions naming convention was not adopted until 1950.

1899 British Lions tour to Australia
British rugby team 1899.jpg
The touring British team
Date14 June – 19 August
Coach(es)Matthew Mullineux
Tour captain(s)England Matthew Mullineux
England Frank Stout
Test series winnersBritish and Irish Lions (1–3)
Top test point scorer(s)England Charlie Adamson (17)
1899 British Lions tour to Australia
21 18 00 03
Test match
04 03 00 01
4 3 0 1

Negotiations had also taken place for the tour to incorporate matches against New Zealand, either through a visit to New Zealand, or a New Zealand team to play in Australia. No agreeable terms could be found.

This tour was the first to truly represent the British Isles, with players from all four Home Nations. Despite this fact, many Australian newspapers, and some British dailies, referred to the tourists as "the English football team".[1]

Plan to tour in 1898Edit

After the tour of South Africa in 1896, players in Britain expressed wishes to make a similar tour to Australia.[2] In August 1897, the New South Wales Rugby Football Union (NSWRFU), received a letter from Reverend Matthew Mullineux asking whether a tour beginning in June 1898 would be possible and welcomed by the Union.[2] This request was discussed in depth by the NSWRFU at their 30 September meeting,[3] and it was decided to extend an invitation with the following stipulations.[3] The tour was to be under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), with the touring team paying for passage to and from Sydney. The NSWRFU would pay for their internal expenses once in Australia. The British team was to receive a percentage of the profits earned by the attendance at each match, but only up to the cost of their travel. Some debate centred about what level of reimbursement would be allowed, they settled on fifty percent after the initial proposal of twenty percent was deemed too low. They specified that a playing squad be made up of twenty-one players inclusive of the tour manager. They would play two games a week while on tour, in New South Wales, Queensland, and New Zealand.[3] There was also the possibility that the tour would take in Victoria.[4]

The proposal was sanctioned by the RFU, with the strict stipulation that the tour would take place on a purely amateur basis.[5] It was the plan of Mullineux to fill the team with players from the Universities,[2] but the timing of the tour meant that players would need to leave Britain in early May, when vacation had not yet begun.[5] Due to a lack of time to make the necessary arrangements, the tour for 1898 was subsequently cancelled.[6]

Plan to tour in 1899Edit

A new invitation was sent from the NSWRFU, for a tour to take place in 1899.[7] The RFU at about the same time, received an invitation from the South African Rugby Football Union, to send a team to tour South Africa in 1899. The RFU wanted confirmation from Mullineux, that a team to tour Australia was for certain able to be formed if the invitation from South Africa was to be turned down.[7] After numerous meetings between the RFU and Mullineux a decision was made in February 1899, to turn down the tour to South Africa.[7] A cable message was received in February 1899 by the NSWRFU, that was erroneously construed[7] to mean that the Australian tour had been the tour abandoned, with players preferring to make the tour of South Africa.[8] The NSWRFU having completed all the arrangements for the tour to take place and having rearranged club schedules to accommodate the tour,[9][10][11] made enquiries as no official confirmation of the cancellation was received.[12] The misunderstanding was cleared up on 22 February by a message that indicated the tour to Australia was going to proceed.[13] Mullineux stated, there was never any suggestion of abandoning the Australian tour.[7]

Touring squad selectionEdit

The makeup of the touring squad was described in the earliest communication of 1897 from Mullineux, as a team made of University students from his school Cambridge, as well as Oxford University, and also of international representatives.[2] Two problems faced Mullineux, the first was that the timing of the tour meant that players would need to leave Britain in early May, when the university vacations had not yet begun.[5] The second was that a long tour would preclude many of the best players from participating due to other commitments.[14] Consequently, early lists of probable touring players had few players listed that finally made the tour.[15][16][17] In the pool of potential players the following were noted:[15][16][17][18][19][20] James Byrne, Cecil Boyd, Viv Huzzey, Zimans, Ernest Fookes,[21] Lindsay Watson, M Elliott, Herbert Dudgeon, James Gowans, James Franks, J H Kipling, R Forest, Lawrence Bulger, Timoins,[22] R O Swartz, C B Marston, W Neeks (or Needs), Dr Rowland, J W Gorman, and James Couper. Among these names were several high-profile players that recruitment attempts failed to secure. Byrne declined due to pressure of business, while Ernest Fookes was awaiting a serious medical operation.[23] The final member to join the team was Scottish international Alf Bucher, after failed approaches were made to recruit fellow Scot James Couper and Welsh wing Viv Huzzey.[20]

Touring partyEdit

The team consisted of 21 players, nine had international experience, five had played for England, three for Ireland, and one for Scotland and Wales. Commentators thought that the selected team did not fully represent the strength of British rugby, particularly with the absence of James Byrne.[24]

The team played in a kit consisting of a jersey with thick blue bands and thinner red and white bands, representing the colours of the Union Jack; with dark blue shorts and blue stockings finished with red and white tops.[25] The team caps were maroon in colour and bore the motif of a kangaroo.[26] Formal dress comprised a navy blazer, with a breast badge that read "The Anglo-Australian Rugby Football Team".[27]

Full BacksEdit

  • Esmond Martelli, was 20 years of age when the team departed England. He played for Dublin Wanderers.[28] On tour he played as a fullback, but was able to play at three-quarters also. He was a skilled place, drop and punt kicker.[23]
  • Charles Thompson, was approximately 25 years old, and played for Lancashire.[17] A versatile player who had played at three-quarter, as well as in the forwards.[23] He was a skilled kicker.[23]


Half backsEdit

  • Matthew Mullineux, was 31 years of age, and played for Blackheath, and Moseley.[19] and represented Kent.[15] He was the only player who toured South Africa in 1896. He was the instigator, planner, and manager of the British team. He served as captain on a number of the tour matches.
  • George Cookson, was 25 years of age, and played for Manchester,[19] and Lancashire.[15] In 1898 for the North of England team.[23]
  • Charlie Adamson, was 24 years of age, and played for Durham, and in 1898 for the North of England team.[23] He had also tried out for the English team on several occasions.[15] He was a versatile player, being able to play at half back, three quarter or as centre.[23] He finished the tour as the test top scorer, with 17 points, including a try in both the second and fourth tests.


Plan for tour to New ZealandEdit

The British rugby union team in 1899, while at Albany, West Australia. Sixteen members of the team are shown here, along with two delegates of the Perth Rugby Union.[32]

The plan to include New Zealand in the British tour was made in the initial correspondence from the NSWRFU to Mullineux in 1897.[3] Since the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) was not in direct negotiations with Mullinuex, they had to work with the NSWRFU to try to negotiate the New Zealand leg of the proposed tour.[4] The NZRU requested from the NSWRFU that they be able to have direct dealings with Mullineux,[33] however this did not eventuate. An extension of the tour to New Zealand, threatened attempts at fielding a strong British representative team.[14] Consequently, the New Zealand leg of the tour became less likely as the tour for 1899 was negotiated. The NSWRFU limited the length of the tour to eight weeks from June to August, giving the British an option to add two weeks to their playing schedules if they wished to add New Zealand to their tour program.[14]

In addition to the lack of time, Mullineux had expressed to the NSWRFU that he had been led to believe that a tour of New Zealand would not be profitable.[34] The NSWRFU reinforced his beliefs by indicating that the New Zealand union had been unwilling to pay for the travel to and from England, but only the travel to and from Auckland.[34] There was some sentiment expressed that, because the team was not an English, but a British team, the expense to have the touring team visit was not warranted.[34] The cost of bringing the British team to New Zealand to play in Otago, Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury was estimated at £400.[35] In November 1898, it was proposed at a meeting of the NZRU, that the NZRU would pay for the full cost of England's travel to and from New Zealand, and within New Zealand.[35] The sub-unions provided guarantees of a percentage of their gate profits to the NZRU.[35] These terms were subsequently agreed to by the NSWRFU.[36] In April, the lengthening of the tour was refused by the British team.[37]

Some hope has still held out for a New Zealand leg of the tour, provided that the NSWRFU cut short the Australian leg of the tour by a week, reducing the number of test matches to three, and cutting country matches, thereby providing time for a short trip to Auckland and Wellington.[38] The NZRU offered only £250 for the two matches,[39] and not the £400 plus all expenses that was requested for the two games.[40] Billy Warbrick in a letter to the Referee highlighted the generosity of the NSWRFU offer, as it stood to lose an estimated £1200 from the loss of two major matches in Australia.[40] The British team decided in mid-July to not make the tour of New Zealand.[41]

As an alternative to touring New Zealand, expectations formed that a match would be played against an Australasian team, consisting of Australian and New Zealand players.[14][36] There was also the proposal that a match against a New Zealand team would be played in Australia if the British decided not to travel on to New Zealand.[14] Subsequently, the NZRU forbade their players from playing in the matches in Australia.[42] The NSWRFU proposed a date for New Zealand to play in Australia, on 5 August, with a combined Australasian match played a week later on 12 August.[43] This plan was declined by the NZRU, citing the resolutions of the local unions to not send players to Australia.[43]

During the British tour, proposals were made by players in New Zealand to make a tour of Britain in 1900.[44] This tour did not happen.

Voyage and travelEdit

Team kit

The tour party left Charing Cross Station on 9 May 1899; coincidentally the day the Australian cricket team began their 1899 tour of England. There they travelled to France, where they boarded the P&O liner RMS Oceana[45] at the port of Marseilles. The ocean trip to Australia took five weeks travelling via the Red Sea of which the travelling party complained of the heat.[46] The team briefly stopped at Albany, Western Australia in good health, and were met by delegates of the Perth Rugby Union, and the Mayor.[32] From there they completed their voyage, docking at Adelaide on 11 June,[26] where they were met by delegates of the South Australian Football Association, principally J. R. Anderson, and D. T. Lawes, as well as W. A. Rand, the secretary of the New South Wales Rugby Union.[26] Rand acted as host and financier[26] accompanying the British team for the duration of the tour.[46] They travelled overland by the express train to Melbourne on 12 June. From Melbourne they continued their journey to Sydney.[27]

For this tour, the Lions wore brought back the white and blue, the blue used in thick hoops and the red and white in thin bands. A modern version of this jersey would be later worn by England in their one-off Test against Australia in Sydney in 1999, played to commemorate the centenary of the Wallabies' first Test, against those early British tourists.[47] For their part, Australia wore a light blue uniform (similar to worn by the Wallabies in that first 1899 Test).[48]

Match summaryEdit

The Australian tour took in 21 matches; four were Test matches against the Australian national team, while the remainder were against regional and invitational teams. The British Isles lost the first Test, but won the last three Tests to take the series 3–1. After the first loss to the Australians, team captain Mullineux dropped himself from the team for the rest of the tour, with Frank Stout taking the captain's role for the remaining Tests. The decision by Mullineux to replace his position with Charles Adamson is seen as the tour's turning point,[49] which saw the British team begin to win matches by more convincing margins and eventually control the Tests.

The complete list of matches played by the British Isles in Australia is the following:[50][51]

  Test matches

# Date Opponent Location Result Score
1 14 June Central Southern Goulburn Won 11–3
2 17 June New South Wales Sydney Won 4–3
3 20 June Metropolitan Sydney Won 8–5
4 24 June   Australia Sydney Lost 3–13
5 28 June Toowoomba Toowoomba Won 19–5
6 1 July Queensland Reds Brisbane Lost 3–11
7 5 July Bundaberg Bundaberg Won 36–3
8 8 July Rockhampton Rockhampton Won 16–3
9 11 July Mount Morgan Mount Morgan Won 29–3
10 15 July Central Queensland Rockhampton Won 22–3
11 19 July Maryborough Maryborough Won 27–8
12 22 July   Australia Brisbane Won 11–0
13 25 July New England Armidale Won 6–4
14 27 July Northern Newcastle Won 28–0
15 29 July NSW Waratahs Sydney Won 11–5
16 1 August Metropolitan Sydney Lost 5–8
17 5 August   Australia Sydney Won 11–10
18 9 August Western Districts Bathurst Won 19–0
19 12 August   Australia Sydney Won 13–0
20 15 August Great Public Schools Sydney Won 21–3
21 19 August Victoria Melbourne Won 30–0
Pl W D L Ps Pc
21 18 0 3 333 90

Match detailsEdit

Central SouthernEdit

14 June
Central Southern3–11British Isles
Try: Kimpton[52]Try: Adamson
Timms (2)
Con: Adamson[52][53]
Showgrounds,[52] Goulburn
Attendance: 4000[52]
Referee: W Cain[52]

New South Wales, 1st MatchEdit

17 June
New South Wales3–4British Isles
Try: Peter WardGoal from mark: Esmond Martelli
Sydney Cricket Ground[54]
Attendance: 20,000[54]
Referee: J F Macmanamey[55]

Metropolitan, 1st MatchEdit

20 June
Metropolitan5–8British Isles
Try: Carson
Con: Frank Row
Try: Alf Bucher
Wallace Jarman
Agricultural Ground, Sydney
Attendance: 25,000[56]
Referee: A J Faulkner[56]

First TestEdit

24 June
Australia  13–3  British Isles
Try: Colton1
Con: Spragg (2)
Try: Nicholls
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Attendance: 28,000[58]
Referee: WG Garrard (New Zealand)

The first Test played by Australia was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground under excellent weather conditions.[61] The temperature on the day of the game reached 60 °F (16 °C),[62] and there was almost no breeze.[57] There was a great deal of interest in the match, with the Sydney Morning Herald and Brisbane Courier both reporting 30,000 in attendance,[57][61] and the United Press Association reporting 27,000 in attendance.[63] The attendance was officially recorded as 28,000.[64][65] Tickets for the game were one shilling for general admission, and two shillings for grand stand seats, while children were admitted at half price.[66] In all the game grossed £1200.[57] A full program of events had been scheduled with a preliminary rugby match played by local teams, Wallaroo, and Randwick at 1:45pm, as well as heats of a one-mile bicycle race by the League of Wheelmen.[66] The final of the bicycle race was scheduled during the half-time break.[67] Special trams had been arranged for the event,[66] with the Tramway Service reporting that every available tram had been used for the extra traffic on the day; fully 131 carloads were conveyed to the match.[68]

It had been noted in the lead up to the Test that the British team was out of condition.[46] The writer Player in the Brisbane Courier, believed that the first Test was Australia's only chance to beat the British team, as he felt that with the British team's condition improving during the tour, they would be impossible to beat.[46] The British team had been dealing with some illness and injury, necessitating the fielding of a team in the Test that was not their first choice, but in the end identical to the team that played New South Wales the previous weekend.[63] Elliot Nicholson, Alec Timms, and Charles Thompson were all listed as playing,[69] but last minute changes were made.[57][70] While at a swimming bath, Nicholson injured his foot on a protruding nail, and was unable to play. Bucher played in his place. Timms did not recover from an injury received in the match at Goulburn in time to make the field. Adamson, was moved from the halves to the three-quarters to fill his place, and in turn Cookson filled the opening in the halves left by Adamson. Martelli, who had injured his thumb in the match against Goulburn,[71] and had taken the field against New South Wales, but had to retire due to injury,[72] recovered in time to play in place of Thompson. It had been feared on the evening before the match, that Gwyn Nicholls had caught influenza and would be incapacitated,[70] but instead was a severe cold.[57] Rev. Mullineux also took to the field with a cold.[57] The British played field of four players, at three-quarters, and two half-backs, that contrasted with the Australian field of only one half-back, two at five-eighth, and three at three-quarters.[69]

The Australian side who contested the 1st Test of 1899

The Australian team on the other hand had no such changes, although the inclusion of M'Cowan had been in doubt only a week before the game,[73] due to a strain.[69] The team consisted of six Queensland players, with the balance made up by New South Wales representatives.[69] Selectors chose to keep the New South Wales three-quarter combination of Spragg, Row and White intact.[69] The only noted absences from the team were Tom Pauling and A. J. Lewis, who suffered injuries in the inter-colonial match the week before the Test.[69] Training of the team was supervised by Billy Warbrick.[74] The Australian team wore the blue colours of NSW.[57]

In the week preceding the match, Mullineux had requested that a conference be held to review some differences in the interpretation of the rules of the game from how the game was played in Britain.[75]

While the two teams played an evenly matched game until the British performance, particularly in defence,[63] dropped off towards the later stages.[57][63] The poor condition of the British team was noticeable, and was attributed as the reason the British lost the game.[57] The writer for the United Press Association was of the opinion that the British performance was somewhat poorer than in the game played against New South Wales the previous weekend.[63] The British did show some deft ball handling skills in the game: The beautiful series of passes which gained the try for the Englishmen was considered as being an excellent object lesson in backing up. Some of the players, without looking where they were throwing the ball, passed simply because they knew their comrades would be in position to receive it.[57] The British were criticised for the slow rate in which they got the ball from the scrum, an area of play, in which Australia excelled.[63] The writer for the Queanbeyan Age, noted that the Australians forwards played too fast for the British.[65] The United Press Association named White and Ward as the outstanding players for Australia.[63]

First halfEdit

Mullineux having won the coin toss elected to defend the northern end of the field.[57] Gralton opened play with the kick off. Mullineux made a mark in the first minutes of the game, but he kicked poorly.[57] Soon after, a free kick was awarded to the British.[61] The Nicholls kick for touch remained within the field of play and came within five yards of the Australian try line.[76] Doran received and carried the ball in to touch.[61] Another free kick to the British resulted from the line-out.[57] The goal attempt by Martelli was unsuccessful.[57]

Play continued with both teams attacking the other strongly. Gralton, Ward and Evans for Australia, made good passing combinations on a number of occasions.[57][61] Cookson and Stout making notable plays for Britain, with Stout showing in one run: a remarkable feint, having to stop almost dead and then wheel round to hoax his opponent.[57] Britain pressured the Australian line, with play coming to within five yards from the try line. Pressure was applied through passing the ball starting from Mullineux, and on to Cookson, Bucher, Nicholls, and Doran who was tackled well by Spragg.[61] A scrum that was formed close to the Australian try line, was won by Australia, and Gralton cleared the ball to mid-field with a kick.[57] Subsequent play shifted the attack to the British half. Here the Gralton, Ward, Evans combination brought Evans close to the British try line.[57] A subsequent scrum yielded the ball to Gralton who forced his way forward, but he lost the ball.[57] and the British cleared the ball to the western sideline.[57] The relief was short lived, as the attack was once again brought against the British in the center of the field.[57] Evans receiving the ball, made an unsuccessful drop goal attempt[77] sending the ball high and wide of the goal.[63] The ball dropped in front of the British fullback Martelli who overran the ball,[63] having let the ball bounce.[57] Australian players came rushing through and jumped upon the loose ball.[57] The referee awarded the try, against the protests of the British who claimed that Kelly had illegally interfered with Martelli getting to the ball,[57] as well as an off-side by the Australians.[57][65] The reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that, From the press table, in the balcony of the members' pavilion, the interference appeared to be simply a jostle but it seemed hard to come to any other conclusion than that Kelly and Colton were off-side.[57] The try scorer is officially recorded as Colton,[64] however Kelly is in other places recorded as the try scorer.[57][63] The conversion attempt by Spragg was unsuccessful.[61]

The restart of play was the scene of some amusement to the spectators, with the Australians returning the British drop-out, with a kick for touch. The touch umpire raised his flag, to signal touch had been found near the British 25. However, play continued, and the ball was kicked downfield into the Australians half. Some of the British players expecting play to be halted for a line-out, stood near the touch umpire who continued to hold his flag aloft. Play continued, with the Australians eventually returning play back upfield, and eventually finding touch a few yards from where the touch umpire was still standing with flag raised. The umpire alerted the referee to the earlier touch, but he was over-ruled.[57]

In the following passage of play, the British having been awarded a penalty, kicked for touch, bringing it down into Australians half. Carson who had been performing strongly in the line-outs, won the ball from the British throw-in, allowing Australia to return the ball back to half-way. The British showed some of their strong ball handling skills in the following phases. Ensuing play resulted in a penalty against Australia, which was unsuccessfully kicked for a goal attempt by Martelli. The Australians brought the ball upfield in a strong attack that resulted in the British forcing the ball in goal. The end of the half was called.[57]

Second halfEdit

Stout kicked off for England in the second half and the ball was subsequently returned into touch, near the half way.[57] The first fifteen minutes of the half were characterised as evenly matched,[57] White had a one run, where he successfully fended a couple of tackle attempts and followed on with a kick for touch[61] to bring the ball into the British half.[57] After a number of phases Evans secured the ball, and kicked downfield to Martelli. However, a penalty against Australia allowed the British to relieve.[57]

The Queensland team that played the British Lions on 8 July.[78] The players had avoided the photographer through the day, and were finally obliged to sit for the portrait very soon after leaving the field.[79]

Play progressed in neutral territory for a few phases until Mullineux began a series of passes that were praised for the high level of skill shown.[57][61] The passes went from Mullineux to Cookson, then Francomb, then Doran and on to Nicholls, who was about to cross the touch line only a couple of yards from the try line.[57] In time he blindly passed back, and Adamson, who was in support, received the ball[57] passed on to Nicholls[80] who making it through numerous Australian defenders[65] crossed the line for the try.[80] Martelli missed the conversion attempt.

The British in the next passage of play were successful in bringing the ball back into the Australians 25,[57] and were soon awarded a free kick.[57] The attempt at goal was poor, and the Australians cleared the ball far down field.[57] The British punt attempt to return the ball back to the Australians end was poor and was charged down,[57] and with the Carew and Cookson[57] pressing their attack by kicking the ball along the ground found their way to the British 25, where the ball was put into touch.[61] The Australians lost the ball in one of the following phases, by way of a Bucher intercept,[61] and had to return to their 25 to defend.[57] A penalty was awarded to the English for off-side play[61] but Martelli's kick for goal was again unsuccessful.[61] Francomb followed the goal kick attempt through, and was narrowly beaten to the ball by Row, who forced it in goal.[57]

In the resumption of play, the ball was returned to the British try line by way of a deep kick by Evans.[57] Martelli carried the ball into touch only a couple of yards from the British try line.[57][61] Play continued in the British half, with a temporary relief kick being made by Britain.[61] The match was now within the last seven minutes.[65] After a series of scrums,[61] Australia secured possession, and Spragg almost scored in the corner, but it was ruled that he stepped into touch.[57] In the following passage of play, Spragg received the ball by way of a scrum win and quick passes,[65] and made a dodgy run[57] to break through the British line and score a try about halfway between the corner and the goal posts.[65] In turn he kicked for the conversion and was successful.[57]

The Australians received the kick restart, and Carew kicked the ball back into British territory.[57] The Australians forwards coming downfield, overwhelmed Martelli and secured the resulting loose ball.[65] The ball went from Ward, to Evans and on to Spragg, who being blocked by the British Defense, passed the ball back to Evans who crossed the line, running around to score the try under the goal posts.[65] The conversion kick by Spragg, was once again successful.[65] Full-time was called, after the kick was made.[57]


28 June
Toowoomba5–19British Isles
Try: Phil Thomas
Con: Broadfoot
Try: H.G.S. Gray
Gwyn Nicholls (2)
Charlie Adamson
Con: Charlie Adamson (2)
Pen: Charlie Adamson
Royal Society Grounds, Toowoomba
Attendance: 2500[81]


1 July
Queensland11–3British Isles
Try: Corfe (2)
Con: Gralton
Try: Mullineux
Referee: Alf Faulkner[83]


5 July
Bundaberg3–36British Isles


8 July
Rockhampton3–16British Isles

Mount MorganEdit

11 July
Mount Morgan3–29British Isles
Mount Morgan

Central QueenslandEdit

15 July
Central Queensland3–22British Isles


19 July
Maryborough8–27British Isles

Second TestEdit

22 July
Australia  0–11  British Isles
Try: Nicholls
Con: Adamson
Exhibition Ground, Brisbane
Attendance: 15,000
Referee: William H Beattie
Queensland plays Mullineux's English Team at Rugby Union in Brisbane

The second Test was played at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, in front of 15,000 spectators: a record Queensland crowd for attendance at a rugby match.[86] In addition to the spectators inside the ground, a crowd estimated at approximately 3,000 assembled on the hill overlooking the exhibition grounds on the Fortitude Valley side of Bowen Terrace.[87] Special trains with reduced fairs, and returning in the evening,[88] had been arranged by the Railway Commissioner Gray for the day operating from Maryborough, and Warwick.[89] These trains as well as the regular service trains were filled to capacity.[87] People came hundreds of miles to see the game: from Longreach, Charleville, Gladstone, and Rockhampton.[87] In attendance was Governor Lamington and Lady Lamington, George Le Hunte the Governor of New Guinea, among other socialites of the day.[90] Tickets to the game were one shilling.[91] Additional entertainment was provided by the Headquarters Band,[91] who were criticised by the writer in the Brisbane Courier for playing their usual playlist, which included La mascotte and Dorothy, and not a fresh repertoire of music.[87] The weather was fine, with a strong, north-east breeze blowing across the field.[92] The temperature on the day rose to 66.6 °F (19.2 °C).[93]

The Australian team wore the maroon red of Queensland, with a badge of the Australian Coat of Arms.[87]

New EnglandEdit

25 July
New England4–6British Isles


27 July
Northern0–28British Isles

New South Wales, 2nd MatchEdit

29 July
New South Wales5–11British Isles

New South Wales: Frank Row captain
British Isles: Esmond Martelli, Charles Thompson, Alf Bucher, Alec Timms, Elliot Nicholson, Charlie Adamson, Gwyn Nicholls, Gerry Doran, Matthew Mullineux captain, George Cookson, Frank Stout, William Judkins, Guy Evers, Wallace Jarman, Tom McGown, John Francomb, Blair Swannell, H.G.S. Gray, Frederick Belson, Alan Ayre-Smith, George Gibson

Metropolitan, 2nd MatchEdit

1 August
Metropolitan8–5British Isles

Third TestEdit

5 August
Australia  10–11  British Isles
Try: Spragg (2)
Con: Spragg (2)
Try: Bucher (2)
Con: Adamson (2)
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Attendance: 16,000
Referee: WS Corr

Western DistrictsEdit

9 August
Western Districts0–19British Isles

Fourth TestEdit

12 August
Australia  0–13  British Isles
Try: Bucher (2)
Con: Adamson (2)
Pen: Adamson
Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Attendance: 7,000
Referee: WS Corr

Combined Great Public SchoolsEdit


19 August
Victoria0–30British Isles


  1. ^ a b From 1899, Australia tended to use the colours of the state they were playing in, the Waratah's light blue in Sydney and the Queensland Reds' maroon in Brisbane.[59]


  • Griffiths, John (1987). The Phoenix Book of International Rugby Records. London: Phoenix House. ISBN 0-460-07003-7.
  • Jenkins, Vivian (1981). Rothmans Rugby Yearbook 1981–82. Aylesbury: Rothmans Publications Ltd. ISBN 0-907574-05-X.
  • Parry-Jones, David (1999). Prince Gwyn, Gwyn Nicholls and the First Golden Era of Welsh Rugby. Bridgend: seren. ISBN 1-85411-262-7.
  • Zavos, Spiro, "'For the love of the game': The story of the first rugby Test against England at the SCG, 24 June 1899", The Roar, 2016.
  • Zavos, Spiro (2000). The Golden Wallabies. Victoria: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-029601-8.


  1. ^ Griffiths (1987), pg 9:4.
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  3. ^ a b c d "Football. N.S.W. Rugby Football Union". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. 1 October 1897. p. 6. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Football. Proposed English Rugby Team". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. 2 February 1898. p. 8. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  5. ^ a b c "English Football Team for the Colonies". Evening Post. Vol. LV, no. 28. Wellington, New Zealand. 3 February 1898. p. 6. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
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  21. ^ The Star misspells the name as Tookes.
  22. ^ Otago Witness, 11 May 1899. Timoins is probably Alec B Timms who did tour.
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  25. ^ Lions name is a source of great pride The Times 19 June 2009
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  27. ^ a b Parry-Jones (1999), pg 57.
  28. ^ Nelson Evening Mail, 14 July 1899. Some history books claim that he played for Dublin University, however sources from the era indicate that he played for Dublin Wanderers.
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  47. ^ Lions change their stripes on Lions website, 17 April 2005
  48. ^ Brief history of the quirky colours of the Wallaby jersey By Spiro Zavos, 25 August 2012
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  76. ^ The Sydney Morning Herald states the lineout was within five yards of the British 25. The Brisbane Courier states it was kicked to within five yards of the try line.
  77. ^ Both the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Brisbane Courier state that the kick was a drop goal attempt, whereas the United Press Association account states that the kick for goal was from a free kick.
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  80. ^ a b The try is officially awarded to Nicholls, however some discrepancies exist in the match reports. The Sydney Morning Herald asserted it was Bucher who made the try. The Brisbane Courier cited Adamson as the try scorer. The United Press Association claimed the try was scored not from a passing rush, but from a lineout reception by Nicholls, who broke through the defense.
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