England Captain? Me? 

Richard Henry Burden Cattell, the Oxford University and Moseley half back, won a total of three England caps during 1894/95 while playing for the club. At this time he was preparing for ordination as an Anglican clergyman and decided to play his club rugby in the metropolis for Blackheath. It is unclear why he made this move, however, Blackheath, at that time had many connections with Oxbridge and perhaps he thought that membership of ‘Club’ might lead to a better preferment in the Church of England. At all events he won three further caps in 1895/96 and scored two tries against Wales. He also captained his new club during the 1896/97 season before seemingly growing disillusioned with rugby.

In 1898 he turned to association football and joined Welwyn A.F.C. and later Tring F.C. He did not totally sever his connection with rugby because he still turned out on one occasion for the Barbarians and played a number of games for Moseley, however, it must have been a surprise to put it mildly when, in 1900, he was invited not only to play for the England rugby team but to lead it!

The reason for this strange selection was the fact that England, having lost its previous three international matches, chose no less than 13 new caps including all of the forwards for the game against Wales, at Kingsholm, on 6th January 1900, and obviously thought they needed an old hand to lead the team. This was, incidentally, the only England international match played at the famous Gloucester ground.

The novice England pack began the match strongly and in particular dribbled the ball well. Cattell’s half back partner G.H. Marsden, of Morley, was also prominent and he made a break for Blackheath wing S.F. Coopper (sic) who wasted the opportunity. Wales then began to get into the game and after 20 minutes Llwynypia forward R. Hellings scored from the back of a maul and W.J. Bancroft, the Swansea full back, converted. Incredibly, Hellings, a Rhondda miner, played for most of the match with a broken arm. This was the only score of the first half and so Wales led by five points to nil at the interval.

The home pack began the second half as they had started the first period and Marsden was able to put E.T. Nicholson, the Birkenhead Park wing, in for a try which went unconverted. Wales held onto their narrow lead until ten minutes from the end when the side burst into life with a memorable try by Swansea wing W.J. Trew following some wonderful three quarter play. Bancroft converted this score and just before no side he added a penalty from the touchline to give Wales a 13 points to three victory.

This, perhaps not surprisingly, was Cattell’s final international and his one and only appearance as England captain.