The Cornish rugby tradition has deep roots, stretching back before the game was even invented. A form of folk football, known as Cornish hurling was highly popular there, and is still played in two towns in Cornwall. It is possible that the former popularity of this game paved the way for the rugby code.
The CRFU are members of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body for rugby union in England. Their rugby jerseys with gold and black hoops were introduced in 1885 and the strip is currently sponsored by whirlwind sports.com.
Cornish Rugby has had the honour to have played host to many international touring rugby teams over the years including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand Maori, France, Romania, the USA, Canada, Japan and the Soviet Union.
One of the most important times of the year in a Cornish rugby fan's calendar is the County Championship. Like the 1900 games, three teams entered: Australasia (representing Australia and New Zealand), France, and Great Britain (which included the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland). France pulled themselves from the event prior to the commencement of the tournament, being unable to field a representative team. Cornwall won the championship for the first time in 1908, when they played in front of 17,000 fans at Redruth. The game was against Durham, also known for its mining, this time coal not tin. Cornwall won the game 17-3, scoring 5 tries. The added incentive for the winner was the chance to represent Great Britain at the 1908 Summer Olympics. The choice of Cornwall was controversial, as only three of their players had ever represented England, as well as the fact that Australia, who had been on a tour of the United Kingdom, had defeated them 18 points to five.
Two other countries entered the 1908 Summer Olympics, France and Australia. France withdrew before the tournament which left Great Britain (Cornwall) playing Australia. The final score was 32-3 to Australia with Bert Solomon managing to score a try for Great Britain. (see Rugby union at the 1908 Summer Olympics for the teams.) Australasia's team, the Wallabies, was already on tour in Britain, while the best Anglo-Welsh players were on tour in New Zealand at the time. Great Britain was therefore represented by the Cornwall county team, who were chosen by the RFU as an appropriate side after they defeated Durham in the 1907 English county championship.
As expected, Australasia defeated Great Britain, claiming the gold medal, the score being 32 points to three. The match at the White City Stadium was played under poor conditions, in fog and with a slippery field.
Cornwall reached the Championship final again in 1909, 1928, 1958, 1969 and 1989 but had to wait until 1991 before re-claiming the trophy. In a final that most Cornish fans will remember forever, Cornwall played Yorkshire at Twickenham in front of 54,000 fans, the majority of which were supporting Cornwall. In a game that had everything, from a Cornish point of view, all seemed lost when after 54 minutes, Cornwall found themselves trailing at 16-3 down, having been tricked when Yorkshire ran a penalty that the Cornish believed they had indicated to kick. That one moment changed the course of the game and Cornwall fought back to draw level at 16-16 after 80 minutes. They even missed the conversion that would have given them victory in normal time. The game then went into extra time when Cornwall managed to continue their scoring.
The final score was 29-20 to Cornwall which sent the Cornish fans into a state of total elation. The Cornish tries were not pretty but no one cared. Richard Nanckivell's two tries were the inspiration that they could win and Tommy Bassett and Billy Peters put the icing on the cake in extra-time. Cornwall's first title since 1908.
Cornwall managed to reach the final again in both 1992 and 1998, unfortunately losing both and it was not until 1999 when they met Gloucester in the final that Cornwall managed to win the Championship again.
Cornwall play most of their home games at Redruth R.F.C. and Camborne RFC but matches have also been played at Penzance & Newlyn and Launceston.
The premier club side in Cornwall are the Cornish Pirates (recently renamed from Penzance & Newlyn RFC) who play in National Division One. They are hoping to increase their fanbase by appealing to the large Cornish nationalist sentiment to help them gain promotion to the Guinness Premiership. Launceston RUFC ("The Cornish All Blacks") have recently (2007 season) been promoted to the National Division One. Redruth R.F.C. ("The Reds") play in National Division Two and also get good support. Mount's Bay have this season 2007/08 began their campaign in National Division Three, South, leading the league for the entire season they are at season end promoted to National Division Two for the 2008/09 season. The other major Cornish club sides who play in the South West 1, 2 West, Western Counties West and Cornwall & Devon leagues are Bude, Camborne, Falmouth, Hayle, Newquay Hornets Penryn, St. Austell, St. Ives, Saltash, Truro and Wadebridge Camels.
Read more about this topic: Rugby Union In Cornwall
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