R.S.L. Carr 

One of the many internationals to have represented Moseley for a short time was Ronald Stanley Leonard Carr. He was born in 1917 in Timperley, Cheshire and was educated at Cranleigh School in Surrey.

 

Carr first played for the Cranleigh 1st XV, as a wing, during the 1932/33 season when the school won all five of its inter-school matches. In the following season the school also defeated older opponents in the shape of London Scottish ‘A’ and Keble College, Oxford, Carr scoring a try in the former game.

 

In 1934/35 Carr proved to be a prolific try scorer. Against Brighton College he scored five tries, touched down a further four times against Mill Hill School and got three more tries in the game with Epsom College, a feat which he repeated against Dover College. In all Carr scored 27 tries during a season in which the school won all of its inter-school games for the third consecutive season scoring 206 points to ten.

 

Carr’s first representative rugby match was in April 1935 when he played, on the left wing, for South Public Schools against their counterparts from the North, at Dulwich College. The home side were victorious by 25 points to nil and Carr made a successful representative debut with three tries.

 

In 1935/36 Carr captained the Cranleigh 1st XV and in January 1936 he also led the English Public Schools against Scotland, at Richmond Athletic Ground. On that occasion he played at centre rather than in his usual position on the wing and The Times felt that ‘he would have been better suited on the wing’ although he still managed to score one of the tries in a nine points to five victory for the home team.

 

Rugby was only played at Cranleigh during the pre-Christmas term with hockey taking over in January. As a result in the post-Christmas periods Carr turned out for Rosslyn Park Public Schools and also for the Old Cranleighans. During his final year at school he played regularly for the old boys’ side and scored a hat trick in the match against London Irish. He also, on occasions, turned out for the Manchester club.

 

Carr was not only a rugby player but was an all-round sportsman. He represented the school’s hockey 1st XI as a forward and at the 1935 school sports he came first in the 100 yards, high jump, putting the weight and hurdle race, second in the 220 yards and third in the long jump.

 

Having left school Carr continued to turn out for the Old Cranleighans during 1936/37 as well as also playing some games for Manchester. Towards the end of the season he joined the old boys on their Easter tour of the West Country when Barnstaple, Torquay Athletic and Bristol were all played over the holiday weekend. An indication of the strength of old boys’ rugby at the time is that Old Cranleighans remained unbeaten, defeating both Barnstaple and Torquay and drawing with Bristol.

 

At the beginning of 1937/38 Carr played for Old Cranleighans in their opening match against an International XV on the school ground at Cranleigh. The old boys ran their illustrious visitors close and the final score was 18-13 to the International XV. Carr scored one of his sides tries by swerving around Scottish international C.F. Grieve. One remarkable feature of the game was that the old boys conceded a try shortly before half time when one of their centres left the field in search of a better pair of boots!

 

As during the previous season Carr played for both Old Cranleighans and Manchester. He again took part in Old Cranleighans’ Easter tour when Barnstaple, Torquay Athletic and Bristol were once more encountered. Unlike the previous year’s tour Bristol defeated the old boys after the latter had defeated Barnstaple and Torquay.

 

An Old Cranleighans v. International XV match was again staged during the early part of the 1938/39 season and on this occasion Carr had the task of marking England international and Russian prince Alexander Obolensky, the scorer of two tries in England’s famous win over the All Blacks in 1936. This does not appear to have fazed Carr who was ‘as fast’ as his opposite number whom he ‘easily marked down’. This was one of the few bright spots in the old boys’ performance as they were defeated by 21 points to nil.

 

As in previous seasons Carr divided his time between Manchester and Old Cranleighans during 1938/39. One of his appearances for the old boys in this last post war season was against Moseley, who were defeated by three points to nil.  Of his performance in this match The Times commented that ‘He is not only very fast, but he also gets very quickly into his stride, and when he learns to pay a little more attention to his centres, who were often up with him waiting for an inside pass, he will be an extremely dangerous player’.

 

Having been overlooked for the first England Trial, Carr was selected for the Probables against the Possibles in the second trial match at Bridgwater, in December 1938. Carr once more opposed Obolensky and the outcome was ‘a draw’ although towards the end of the Possibles’ victory ‘Carr took a pass in full stride and not only left Obolensky standing but raced on at remarkable speed to score one of the best tries of the match’. The Times noted ‘Now that Carr’s defence has improved he is worthy of serious consideration’.

 

The England selectors obviously agreed with the verdict of The Times because Carr was promoted to the England side for the Final Trial against the Rest, at Twickenham, in January 1939. Carr’s performance in the last trial had resulted in Obolensky being relegated to the Rest side and although the Russian scored two tries in his team’s victory Carr was given few opportunities in attack.

 

Carr had evidently done enough because he was selected on the left wing as one of eight new caps in the England side to face Wales at Twickenham later in the month. The Western Daily Press felt that Carr ‘did not distinguish himself on that occasion [the final trial] and his selection can be counted the one surprise’ although somewhat strangely, the paper commented two days later that Carr ‘is very sure in defence and is lively in attack’.

 

Conditions at Twickenham for Carr’s debut did not favour three quarter play, as the playing field was a sea of mud. The debutant had no attacking chances and ‘a number of hair-raising experiences in defence’. Not surprisingly perhaps, given the conditions the only score was a try by England forward D.E. Teden (Richmond) which gave the home side a 3-0 victory. Carr became the seventh Old Cranleighan in ten years to win an England cap. 

 

Despite some concern about his inability to field a skidding ball and calls from some quarters for the selection of Obolensky Carr was given the benefit of the doubt and was selected in an unchanged side to meet Ireland, at Twickenham, in February 1939.

 

The Ireland match was also a low-scoring encounter which the visitors won 5-0. In this game Carr did see some attacking ball and was brought to ground inches from the Irish line on one occasion.

 

Following his impressive attacking play against Ireland Carr was retained for the season’s final international match against Scotland[1], at Murrayfield, in March. Before the Scottish match Carr turned out for Manchester in an emphatic 37-6 victory over Moseley. During this game he was brilliant in both attack and defence and scored a try after beating two Moseley defenders with sheer pace.

 

Prior to the Calcutta Cup match heavy rain fell in Edinburgh, conditions which favoured the heavy English pack. Because of the scoring system then in operation England were able to defeat their hosts by three penalty goals (nine points) to two tries (six points). Despite England failing to score a try Carr did have several bright spots during the game and showed up well in attack.

 

In those days points difference was not used to separate sides with an equal number of victories therefore England, Wales and Ireland, all with two wins shared the 1939 International Championship.

 

Another difference from today was the lack of attention to rugby records. The Dundee Courier and Advertiser summed up this uncertainty perfectly when it reported that ‘The attendance at Murrayfield was semi-officially stated to be 78,000. This is understood to be a record for a Rugby Union international fixture in any part of the world’.

 

To round off the season, as in previous years, Carr joined his old boys’ club for their West Country Easter tour when matches were played against Barnstaple and Torquay Athletic.

 

During the Second World War Carr served as a lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment although he was on attachment to the King’s African Rifles in East Africa where, in 1943, he was awarded the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished service. He is one of three Moseley internationals, along with Rev. M. Mullineux and A.O. Dowson, to be awarded this gallantry medal.

 

At the end of the war Carr briefly joined Moseley before rejoining the Manchester club. During his time with Moseley he was selected for the Midlands side which played the touring New Zealand Army side, the ‘Kiwis’, at Coventry.

 

In 1945/46 rather than a full-blown International Championship there was a series of non-cap ‘Victory’ internationals and Carr was one of five changes in the side that was selected to play Scotland, at Twickenham in March 1946. England defeated the unbeaten Scots by 12 points to eight, the only try for the home side being touched down by Carr whose pace was too much for the defenders.

 

Following this display Carr was retained for the return match, at Murrayfield, in April 1946. It was, however, not to be a happy afternoon for the English as they were routed by 27 points to nil. This margin of victory was the greatest ever in an England-Scotland match but as this was a non-cap match the score did not enter the record books.

 

England were handicapped early in the game when their full back had to leave the field injured and in those pre-replacement days they had to soldier on with 14 men. Carr had a poor game defensively, missing a tackle on Scotland’s first try scorer and later failing to clear to touch to prevent a further try.

 

This proved to be the end of Carr’s representative rugby career and he died of heart problems in 1979 at the age of 62.



[1] Because of concerns over professionalism France were excluded from the International Championship in 1932-39.