1947–48 Australia rugby union tour of Britain, Ireland, France and North America

Between July 1947 and March 1948 the Australia national rugby union team – the Wallabies – conducted a world tour encompassing Ceylon, Britain, Ireland, France and the United States on which they played five Tests and thirty-six minor tour matches. It was the first such tour in twenty years, since that of the 1927–28 Waratahs, as the 1939–40 Australia rugby union tour of Britain and Ireland tour had been thwarted by World War II. They were known as the Third Wallabies.[1]

1947–48 Australia rugby union tour of Britain, Ireland, France and North America
Coach(es)Arnold Tancred
Tour captain(s)Bill McLean
39 32 00 07
Test match
05 03 00 02
1 1 0 0
1 1 0 0
1 0 0 1
1 1 0 0
1 0 0 1

The 1947–48 side was notable in preserving their try-line uncrossed by any of the Home Nations in the first four Tests played. The nine-month journey was one of the last of that era of epic tours when transport was mostly by ship and when the tourists were whole-heartedly welcomed by rugby fans and townships, civic officials and royalty.

The Australians in those days were still showcasing the new running style of rugby that had not yet been fully embraced in the northern hemisphere. The legacy of Johnnie Wallace's leadership of 1927–28, of Cyril Towers and the credo of galloping rugby as played at his Randwick club in Sydney had some bearing on this. But Batchelor also suggests that the everyday competition for public attention between the two rugby codes caused the Australian game (both in Sydney and Brisbane) to need to match the speed and open play of the 13-a-side code. This need was not the same in London and Cardiff where rugby league as yet posed no threat to spectator numbers coming through rugby union turnstiles.[2]

The squad's leadershipEdit

Bill McLean
Unlucky Tour Captain

A squad of thirty players was selected under tour captain Bill McLean. McLean was an experienced Wallaby and leader. His father and brother had represented as both Wallabies and Kangaroos, with his other brother Jack also a Wallaby tourist. Bill McLean had been selected in the 1939 side who'd travelled to England under captain Vay Wilson and were promptly turned about upon the declaration of war without playing a match. He had seen action in World War II against the Japanese as a Captain in an AIF Commando unit in Borneo. He had captained Australia's first post-war Wallaby sides on four occasions against the All Blacks and his return to the British Isles was in some ways a completion of unfinished business.

Trevor Allan was only 20 when selected as vice-captain of the squad. He had impressed in his first state and national representative starts a year earlier but in a squad of veteran campaigners including Graeme Cooke and Phil Hardcastle his vice-captaincy was a surprise and an indication that he was being groomed for the future.

The tour was only six matches old when Bill McLean fulfilled his dream of playing at Twickenham in a minor clash against Combined Services. The match was near completion when McLean was hit by three tacklers from different angles. Howell, Tressider and Shehadie all write that the snap of bone breaking was audible to onlookers. McLean suffered a serious spiral fracture of the tibia and fibula and had played his last representative match. The tour captaincy passed at that moment to Allan, now just a few days past his 21st birthday. Allan was leading a squad comprising war veterans in Ken Kearney, Col Windon, Eddie Broad and Neville Emery; three qualified medical practitioners in Phil Hardcastle, Doug Keller and Clem Windsor; and a mixture of new and experienced Wallabies.

The tradition on earlier Australian tours had been that the manager took care of arrangements and the Asst-Manager fulfilled the coaching duties. Shehadie reports that Arnold Tancred and McLean coached and trained the 1947–48 side with vigour while Jeff Noseda took care of tour administration.[3] Journalist Phil Tressider accompanied the touring party and wrote of Tancred "I remember Tancred as a grim, brooding man who not only managed the team but coached it and was sole selector. He would brook no interference and he kept the press at arm's length. He was fortified by his experiences as a player with the 1927–28 Waratahs and he had an aching ambition for victory",[4] Shehadie wrote of Tancred. "[He] was a very strict disciplinarian who was determined that we would win as many matches as possible. He would constantly remind us that we would only be remembered for the number of matches we won"[5] and goes on to quote Jack Pollard: "The only criticism of Tancred was that relied perhaps too heavily on the team's proven stars and did not give newcomers many opportunities. He barred sportswriters travelling with the team from staying in the same hotel, was uncooperative with the press, and the team did not enjoy very sympathetic media coverage".'[5]

Tour itineraryEdit

The squad sailed southwards from Sydney Harbour in July 1947 aboard the passenger liner Orion. They departed Australia from Fremantle after crossing the Great Australian Bight, next docking in Colombo, Ceylon where they were welcomed and entertained by the expatriate community like the 1927–28 Waratahs before them. From there they sailed to Aden in Yemen, then Port Said, Egypt before arriving in England in the port town of Tilbury.

After seeing the sights of a London still scarred from wartime devastation, the party left by train for Penzance in Cornwall where their on-land training would pick up ahead of the first tour match against Combined Cornwall and Devon at Camborne won by the Wallabies. The minor matches would have an exacting toll with firstly McLean's injury in the sixth game and then the loss of champion Manly winger Charlie Eastes in the match against Newport to a broken arm which also spelled the end of his tour participation.

Rugged matches in Cardiff and Llanelly followed before the Wallabies returned to London where they visited the House of Commons and the House of Lords and met Clement Attlee at 10 Downing St. Later at St James's Palace they were received by the Duke of Gloucester, a former Governor-General of Australia and met his young son Prince William. A tour highlight was a royal reception at Buckingham Palace where the squad met the King and Queen and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. When the squad travelled to Ireland for the second Test they met the President Éamon de Valera.

Back in Britain after the France Test, the Wallabies met the British Barbarians in their inaugural match against an international team – such fixtures would thereafter become a regular event against touring national southern-hemisphere sides. The fixture was arranged during the tour as an extra match to raise funds for the Australians' journey home via Canada.[6] The Barbarians fielded six internationals from England, five from Wales, two from Scotland, one from Ireland. A Barbarian tradition is to select one uncapped player and on this occasion it was Blackheath F.C. winger Martin Turner. The Barbarians won 9–6 and at the after match function tour captain McLean was given honorary Barbarian membership.

After the Barbarians match the team sailed for New York aboard the Queen Mary. From there they travelled across the Rockies by train, playing a number of fixtures against sides comprising expatriates and American footballers. The final tour match was against a University of California team in Los Angeles. The homeward legs were taken by air – Australian National Airlines flew a Skymaster from Los Angeles to Hawaii (an overnight stop), to Canton Island, to Fiji (another overnight) before arriving in Sydney on 28 March 1948. Two years later that very same plane – the Amana – would crash on a scheduled flight from Melbourne to Perth killing all 29 on board.


Test matchesEdit

22 November 1947
  Australia 16–7 Scotland  
Arthur Tonkin (3 – 1t)
Max Howell (3 – 1t)
Ken Kearney (3 – 1t)
Graeme Cooke (3 – 1t)
Brian Piper (4 – 2g)
(4 – 1dg) Derek Hepburn
(3 – 1g) Charles McDonald
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Attendance: 50,000

AUSTRALIA: Brian Piper, Arthur Tonkin, Trevor Allan, Max Howell, John MacBride, Neville Emery, Cyril Burke, Eric Davis, Ken Kearney, Eric Tweedale, Joe Kraefft, Graeme Cooke, Douglas Keller, Arthur Buchan, Colin Windon

SCOTLAND: Ian Lumsden, Thomas Jackson, John Innes, Thomas Wright, Charles McDonald, Derek Hepburn, Dallas Allardice, Robert Bruce, Dod Lyall, Ian Henderson, Leslie Currie, Hamish Dawson, Doug Elliot, Alexander Watt, Jimmy Lees

6 December 1947
  Australia 16–3 Ireland  
Arthur Tonkin (3 – 1t)
Trevor Allan (5 – 1t, 1g)
Cyril Burke (3 – 1t)
Colin Windon (3 – 1t)
Bob McMaster (2 – 1g)
(3 – 1g) Kevin Quinn
Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Attendance: 50,000

AUSTRALIA: Brian Piper, Arthur Tonkin, Max Howell, Trevor Allan, John MacBride, Neville Emery, Cyril Burke, Bob McMaster, Ken Kearney, Eric Tweedale, Joe Kraefft, Graeme Cooke, Douglas Keller, Arthur Buchan, Colin Windon

IRELAND: Dudley Higgins, William McKee, Kevin Quinn, Paddy Reid, Kevin O'Flanagan, Jack Kyle, Ernest Strathdee, Jimmy Corcoran, Karl Mullen, Albert McConnell, Richard Wilkinson, Jimmy Nelson, Bill McKay, Ernie Keeffe, Desmond McCourt

20 December 1947
Wales   6–0   Australia
Bill Tamplin (6 – 2g)
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Attendance: 45,000

AUSTRALIA: Brian Piper, Arthur Tonkin, Trevor Allan, Max Howell, John MacBride, Neville Emery, Cyril Burke, Bob McMaster, Ken Kearney, Eric Davis, Joe Kraefft, Graeme Cooke, Douglas Keller, Arthur Buchan, Colin Windon

WALES: Billy Cleaver, Ken Jones, Bleddyn Williams, Jack Matthews, Leslie Williams, Glyn Davies, Handel Greville, Emlyn Davies, Mal James, Cliff Davies, John Gwilliam, Bill Tamplin, Ossie Williams, Les Manfield, Gwyn Evans

Australia were beaten squarely in a dull, forwards based game with neither side penetrating to score a try.[2]

3 January 1948
  Australia 11–0 England  
Colin Windon (6 – 2t)
Alan Walker (3 – 1t )
Arthur Tonkin (2 – 1g)
Twickenham Stadium, London
Attendance: 70,000
Referee: H Lamber (Ireland)

The Wallabies enjoyed a feast of possession in the first half with their locks Cooke and Kraefft dominating the line-outs and their forwards ahead in the scrums three to one. The match was played at a furious pace and at the twenty-minute mark suddenly for the first time in four Tests the Australian goal line was threatened when the English centre Bennett put Swarbrick into open space.[8]

Swarbrick licked up the pass like a sprinter head down for the finish. Sheer pace carried him on. Tonkin could not get to him. He swerved out, his flying feet not brushing the chalk from the touch line. Piper's dash to the corner was too late. Swarbrick pounced forward – he was clear ! The 70,000 crowd were on their toes. Wild arms waved to high heaven. The Twickenham Valley, pinched between the canyon grandstands, reverberated with thundering clanging to a crescendo. He was not only clear – he was through ! He was indeed over the line, safely, marvellously home. He had but to fall on his face and England would be a try up. A dead man must have scored us three points. And then, as Swarbrick hurled himself down, a pin-pointed rocket caught him, swept him through mid-air, ball and all, into the no-man's land of touch in goal. It was Trevor Allan, the forlorn hope, saving his side after all was lost. '[2]

The sides were evenly matched thereafter with both sets of backs depriving the other of a scoring opportunity. Then right before half-time a kick by Newman failed to find touch and landed in the Australian pack for Ken Kearney to bring the ball forward. It went through many hands before Colin Windon scored in the corner to give the Wallabies a 3–0 lead at the break.

With the game three-quarters over England's full-back Syd Newman hit the post with a penalty attempt that would have kept them in the match. Then with ten minutes to go, the game opened up in Australia's favour. Alan Walker chip-kicked ahead, regathered in spectacular fashion and scored. Then Col Windon's punishing defence on English pivot Tommy Kemp saw Kemp spill the ball and Windon set off like "the Breeze" he was affectionately known as, and outpaced all to the try-line.

AUSTRALIA: Brian Piper, Arthur Tonkin, Trevor Allan (c), Alan Walker, John MacBride, Neville Emery, Cyril Burke, Nicholas Shehadie, Ken Kearney, Eric Tweedale, Joe Kraefft, Graeme Cooke, Douglas Keller, Arthur Buchan, Colin Windon

ENGLAND: Syd Newman, Dickie Guest, Billy Bennett, Edward Scott, David Swarbrick, Tommy Kemp (c), Richard Madge, Eric Evans, John Keeling, Harry Walker, Joe Mycock, Samuel Victor Perry, Micky Steele-Bodger, Douglas Vaughan, Jika Travers

11 January 1948
France   13–6   Australia
Michel Pomathios (3 – 1t)
Guy Basquet (6 – 2t)
Andre Alvarez (4 – 2g)
(6 – 2g) Arthur Tonkin
Stade Colombes, Paris
Attendance: 30,000

AUSTRALIA: Brian Piper, Arthur Tonkin, Trevor Allan, Alan Walker, John MacBride, Neville Emery, Cyril Burke, Nicholas Shehadie, Ken Kearney, Eric Tweedale, Joe Kraefft, Graeme Cooke, Douglas Keller, Arthur Buchan, Colin Windon

FRANCE: Andre Alvarez, Michel Pomathios, Pierre Dizabo, Maurice Terreau, Roger Lacaussade, Leon Bordenave, Gerard Dufau, Lucien Caron, Lucien Martin, Eugene Buzy, Alban Moga, Robert Soro, Jean Prat, Guy Basquet, Jean Matheu-Cambas

Touring partyEdit

Cyril Burke & family.


Name Tests Club Career caps Tour Apps Position Pts
Brian Piper 5 Randwick 12 Full back
Arthur Tonkin 5 Gordon 6 Three-quarter
Trevor Allan 5 Gordon 14 Three-quarter
Max Howell 3 Randwick 5 Three-quarter
Alan Walker 2 Manly 5 Three-quarter
John MacBride 5 Eastern Suburbs 10 Three-quarter
Charlie Eastes 0 Manly 6 Three-quarter
Neville Emery 5 Sydney University 10 Five-eight
Cyril Burke 5 Newcastle 26 Half-back
Roy Cawsey 0 Randwick 2 Half-back
Keith Winning 0 GPS Brisbane 1 8 Flanker
Douglas Keller 5 Drummoyne Rugby Club 13 6 Aus 7 Scot Forward
Phil Hardcastle 0 Sydney University Forward
Clem Windsor 0 University of Queensland 1 Full back
Eddie Broad 0 GPS Brisbane 1 Five-eight
Colin Windon 5 Randwick 20 Forward
Eric Davis 2 Footscray, Victoria 4 Forward
Ken Kearney 5 Parramatta 7 Forward
Eric Tweedale 4 Parramatta 10 Forward
Joe Kraefft 5 Sydney University 6 Forward
Graeme Cooke 5 YMCA Brisbane 13 Forward
Arthur Buchan 5 Randwick 10 Forward
Bob McMaster 1 Brisbane Brothers 7 Forward
Nicholas Shehadie 2 Randwick 30 24 Forward
Bill McLean 0 GPS Brisbane 5 Forward
Jimmy Stenmark 0 Sydney Uni 22 Forward
Wal Dawson 0 Manly 2 Forward
Kevin Bourke 0 Brisbane Brothers 1 Three-quarter
John Fuller 0 Sydney University 9 11 Forward
Mick Cremin 3 Randwick 19 Fly-Half

Matches of the tourEdit

The "Exhibition Matches" are not classed as important as the "Tour matches", they are listed on the tour although the starting line-ups are not counted in the players stats.

Opposing Team F A Date Venue Status
1   Devon and Cornwall[9] 17 7 13 September 1947 Recreation Ground, Camborne Tour match
2   Midland Counties[10][11] 22 14 17 September 1947 Villa Park, Birmingham Tour match
3   Gloucestershire & Somerset[12] 30 8 20 September 1947 Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester Tour match
4   Abertillery and Cross Keys[13] 6 3 24 September 1947 Abertillery Tour match
5   Cardiff[14] 3 11 27 September 1947 Cardiff Arms Park Tour match
6   Combined Services[15] 19 8 1 October 1947 Twickenham, London Tour match
7   Northumberland and Durham[16] 49 0 5 October 1947 Gosforth Greyhound Stadium, Gosforth Tour match
8   North of Scotland[17] 14 0 8 October 1947 Linksfield Stadium, Aberdeen Tour match
9   South of Scotland[18] 15 6 11 October 1947 The Greenyards, Melrose Tour match
10   Glasgow & Edinburgh[19] 23 9 15 October 1947 Glasgow Tour match
11   Cumberland and Yorkshire[20] 25 0 18 October 1947 Workington Tour match
12   Newport 8 4 23 October 1947 Rodney Parade, Newport Tour match
13   Aberavon and Neath[21] 19 9 25 October 1947 The Gnoll, Neath Tour match
14   Llanelli[22] 6 4 28 October 1947 Stradey Park, Llanelli Tour match
15   London Counties[23][24] 20 8 1 November 1947 Twickenham, London Tour match
16   Cambridge University 12 9 6 November 1947 Grange Road, Cambridge Tour match
17   Hampshire and Sussex[25] 14 5 8 November 1947 The Dell, Southampton Tour match
18   Oxford University RFC[26] 5 3 13 November 1947 University of Oxford, Oxford Tour match
19   Leicestershire & East Midlands[27] 17 11 15 November 1947 Welford Road, Leicester Tour match
20   Scotland 16 7 22 November 1947 Murrayfield, Edinburgh Test match
21   Lancashire & Cheshire[28] 8 9 26 November 1947 Belle Vue Stadium, Manchester Tour match
22   Ulster[29] 10 8 29 November 1947 Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast Tour match
23   Ireland 16 3 6 December 1947 Lansdowne Road, Dublin Test match
24   Munster[30] 6 5 9 December 1947 Mardyke, Cork Tour match
25   Swansea RFC[31] 11 8 13 December 1947 St Helen's Ground Swansea Tour match
26   Wales 0 6 20 December 1947 Cardiff Arms, Cardiff Test match
27   Pontypool, Talywain & Blaenavon[32] 9 7 23 December 1947 Pontypool Park, Pontypool Tour match
28   London Counties[33] 8 14 26 December 1947 Twickenham, London Tour match
29   England 11 0 3 January 1948 Twickenham, London Test match
30   France 6 13 11 January 1948 Stade Colombes, Paris Test match
31   South West France[34] 8 7 15 January 1948 Bordeaux Tour match
32   Toulon[35] 16 5 21 January 1948 Toulon Tour match
33   Île-de-France[36] 30 12 24 January 1948 Paris Tour match
34 Barbarians 6 9 31 January 1948 Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff Tour match
35   Vancouver All Stars[37] 36 3 28 February 1948 Vancouver Exhibition Match
36   University of British Columbia 20 6 3 March 1948 Vancouver Exhibition Match
37   Victoria[38] 48 8 6 March 1948 Vancouver Exhibition Match
38   University of California 12 6 17 March 1948 Los Angeles Exhibition Match
39   Stanford University[39] 59 10 21 March 1948 Palo Alto, San Francisco Exhibition Match


  1. ^ Jack Pollard Australian Rugby The Game and the Players; Ironbark, 1994, p.654
  2. ^ a b c Batchelor, Days Without Sunset.
  3. ^ Shehadie, A Life Worth Living p 227
  4. ^ Phil Tressider reproduced in Spirit of Rugby p43-46 (1st published Sydney Daily Telegraph 1988
  5. ^ a b Shehadie, A Life Worth Living p54
  6. ^ "Barbarians at the gate". espn.co.uk. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  7. ^ as described by Nick Shehadie in A Life Worth Living
  8. ^ Shehadie, A Life Worth Living p59
  9. ^ Cornwall/Devon program
  10. ^ love-rugby.com
  11. ^ Goodman, Tom (18 September 1947). "Doubt Over French Tour by Wallabies". The Sydney Morning Herald. trove.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  12. ^ "Gloucester/Somerset program". Archived from the original on 24 February 2004. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  13. ^ Abitillery programme
  14. ^ Cardiff program
  15. ^ Combined Services program
  16. ^ Goodman, Tom (6 October 1947). "Record Win Gives Wallabies Heart". The Sydney Morning Herald. trove.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  17. ^ North of Scotland V. Australia (The Wallabies), Linksfield Stadium, Aberdeen, Wednesday, 8th October, 1947. North District Rugby Union. 1947.
  18. ^ Goodman, Tom (13 October 1947). "Wallabies Last Out to Defeat South Scotland". The Canberra Times. trove.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  19. ^ Goodman, Tom (17 October 1947). "Wallabies' Display was Best of Tour". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  20. ^ "Australian Rugby Union Team Wins Again". The Advertiser. 20 October 1947. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  21. ^ Aberavon program
  22. ^ Llanelli program
  23. ^ London Counties program
  24. ^ Scrum.com dateline
  25. ^ "Hampshire/Sussex program". Archived from the original on 24 February 2004. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  26. ^ Oxford program
  27. ^ "East Midlands programme". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  28. ^ Scrum.com November timeline
  29. ^ love-rugby.com
  30. ^ munsterrugby.ie
  31. ^ Swansea program
  32. ^ Pontypool program
  33. ^ love-rugby.com
  34. ^ love-rugby.com
  35. ^ Griffiths, John (4 July 2011). "Cricket and tennis stars, SH tours by the Home Unions and early tourists in France". espnscrum.co. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  36. ^ "Wallabies Win". The Courier Mail. 26 January 1948. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  37. ^ "Wallabies defeat Vancouver". The Canberra Times. 1 March 1948. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  38. ^ "Wallabies Win Final Game of Tour". Townsville Daily Bulletin. 8 March 1948. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
  39. ^ "Wallabies beat Stanford Team". The Canberra Times. 22 March 1948. Retrieved 30 September 2012.


  • Collection (1995) Gordon Bray presents The Spirit of Rugby, Harper Collins Publishers Sydney – (Essay specific to this article Phil Tressider's The Class of '47–48 1st published Sydney's Daily Telegraph 1987)
  • Howell, Max (2005) Born to Lead – Wallaby Test Captains, Celebrity Books, Auckland NZ
  • Shehadie, Nicholas (2003) A Life Worth Living, Simon & Schuster Australia
  • Batchelor, Denzil (1949) Days Without Sunset, Eyre and Spottiswoode London
  • Pollard, Jack (1994) Australian Rugby – The Game and the Players Jack Pollard Sydney