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Brendan Gallagher: The one cap wonders woefully short-changed

 Scott BentonMention of David Bishop last week and the subject of the best Welsh one cap wonders in the game has known inevitably sends you off trying to complete similar line-ups for the other Home Unions. Surprisingly history, and the stats shows us that something like 21 per cent of all capped players made just the one international appearance. So here goes:

My England line-up features Howard Marshall at full-back, who, as a 23-year-old medic, made his debut against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1893 and scored three tries in a 12-11 defeat after which he was never heard of again. A Lions tourist two years earlier Marshall might have decided it was time to concentrate on a distinguished medical career soon after or possibly picked up a bad injury but the trail seems to go cold after his sensational opening salvo.

Elsewhere Andrew Harriman was possibly just a little bit too much of an exotic talent for England to employ fully although he enjoyed a thoroughly good debut against Australia in Will Carling’s first England game as captain. Harriman was one of the fastest wings to have played the game – 20.9 seconds for the 200 metres – and the inspiration for England’s World Cup Sevens victory in 1993.

At centre is the possibly surprising name of Martin Donnelly,  better known as one of New Zealand’s best ever batsmen. Donnelly completed the classic Lord’s trilogy – a century for Oxford in the University Match, 162 not out for the Gentlemen against the Players in 1947, and a wonderful 206 for New Zealand against England two years later – and won his solitary England cap against an outstanding Ireland side in 1947 who completely outclassed England.

Fly-half MJK Smith was another destined for greater things on the cricket pitch – Warwickshire and England captain – but earlier in his sporting career he was better known for his innovative half-back partnership with the Welshman Onllwyn Brace at Oxford.

I’ve teamed him up with Scott Benton, above, who was unlucky enough to find his way to further England honours barred by Matt Dawson, Kyran Bracken and Andy Gomarsall. Steve Bates would do and equally good job as well.

Up front we see two props – Mark Linnett and Andy Mullins – who made their solitary Test match appearance in the same game, against Fiji in 1989. Flanker Bob Mordell is an interesting one. He looked set for a run in the team in 1978 when he became one of the few modern day England players to turn to Rugby League.

For Scotland the most remarkable one-cap wonder has to be lock Jeremy Richardson who was a member of the national squad for ten years, went on five overseas tours and made two World Cup squads  but can look back on just the solitary cap against South Africa in 1994. Full-back Cammie Glasgow was much the same – he eventually made it onto the pitch against France in 1997 in the last Championship game ever played at Parc des Princes.

Kenny and Ian “the Bear” Milne are legends of the Scottish game but a third brother David was capped against Japan in 1991 while the case of Shaun McGaughey is worth recalling. The raw-boned Hawick man was born in an era of brilliant Scottish flankers and was short-changed with just his one cap – against Romania in Bucharest in 1984 when most of his colleagues still seemed hung over from their recent Grand Slam.

The splendid McGaughey did however write a short chapter in Scotland history when he celebrated his 21st birthday in the team hotel before the game. His chosen mode of celebration was to reel off 21 pull-ups off the balcony of his 9th floor hotel room.

The story goes that John Rutherford in the room underneath and seeing McGaughey’s legs dangling over his balcony from above thought his colleague was being accosted by Eastern bloc hoodlums and was about to raise the alarm when he heard loud cheers as the young flanker completed his last pull-up.

Ireland’s team of one-cap wonders centres almost totally around their frantic search for talent in the barren Nineties. In the back division Colm Wilkinson, John McWeeney (briefly touted as the Irish Jonah Lomu, no seriously), Sean McCahill, Killian Keane, Alan McGowan and David O’Mahony all came and went in the backs.

In the pack you could probably amass 15 back-rowers alone who pulled the shirt on just once but I will settle for Don Whittle and Paul Hogan, who both bit the dust against France, and the curious case of Sale’s born and bred Liverpudlian flanker Dylan O’Grady who saw service just the once, against Italy in 1997.

*This article was first published in The Rugby Paper on November 9.

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