Nick Jeavons On The Pampas 

Having won his first three England caps in the 1981 International Championship Moseley back row forward Nick Jeavons was selected for that year’s summer tour to Argentina.

The tour party, which was captained by Bill Beaumont, was not at full strength because the likes of Peter Wheeler, Mike Slemen, Phil Blakeway and Maurice Colclough were unavailable. Twenty-six players were selected for the tour, of which ten were uncapped, six of the debutants being tight forwards. In that particular area only Beaumont and props Colin Smart and Gary Pearce had previously been capped.

The tourists’ first match was against San Isidro Club, who had won the Buenos Aires league competition for the previous four seasons and who fielded four Argentinean internationals in their side. Nick Jeavons was chosen for this game as blindside flanker the position, which he had occupied in the Five Nations Championship.

As the game entered its final quarter the hosts were leading by six points to three but three tries and two conversions suddenly gave England a winning advantage even though an untidy finish allowed San Isidro to score twice in injury time to give the tourists a win by 20 points to 14. During the match Jeavons looked dangerous when he had the ball in hand, won good lineout possession standing at number five and also made some useful contributions in defence.

On the eve of the next game, at a players’ court, Jeavons and Gosforth lock Steve Bainbridge were jointly convicted of sharing one brain and one hairdryer! This first midweek fixture was under floodlights in Cordoba against the Northern Region, Jeavons was named on the replacements’ bench but was not required during the match, which England won by 36 points to 12.

Jeavons returned to the side for the following game against the Buenos Aires provincial side. This match was played in oppressively hot conditions, which caused the players’ shirts to stick to their backs, and was dominated by the referee who in all awarded 30 penalties, 23 of them against the tourists. Despite this seeming disparity England won the game by 34 points to 25.

After the sticky conditions in Buenos Aires the tourists were relieved to feel the Atlantic breezes during their next game, against the Southern Region, in Mar del Plata. In the first half of this encounter Nick Jeavons made a long, powerful burst which led to a try for centre Paul Dodge, one of eight which England scored during the course of the match which they won by 47 points to three.

The fifth fixture of England’s 1981 tour to Argentina was the first international match and prior to the selection of the England side The Times correspondent, Peter West, thought that ‘Mick’ Jeavons would be selected on the blindside flank of the scrum having put in his best performance to date against the Southern Region. West was of the opinion that Jeavons’s pace and strength when going forward together with his physical presence in the lineout were real assets. While conceding that he was less effective when going backwards he thought that Jeavons was ‘looking a performer for the big occasion.’

As predicted by West, Nick Jeavons was selected for the Test match, which marked an important stage in the history of the game because it was the first occasion on which England awarded caps against opposition who were not members of the International Rugby Board.

The game was staged in Buenos Aires where the conditions were a lot less humid than on the tourists’ previous visit. The England pack rucked and mauled well as had been expected but crucially fared much better than anticipated in the set pieces. The scrum was solid and the lineouts were shared until late in the match when England began to tire. In the latter phase Jeavons played a useful supporting role for the main jumpers John Scott, John Fidler and Bill Beaumont and ‘also went potently around the fringes.’

The match ended in a 19-all draw in which England outscored their hosts by three tries to two; however, the general consensus of opinion was that the outcome was a fair one.

Nick Jeavons then played in the final midweek fixture against Littoral Region; in Rosario, which England won by 25 points to 21 following David Trick’s second try two minutes from no side. Trick scored his first try during the opening half from a move, which stemmed from a Jeavons take at a lineout. Peter West thought that in this match Jeavons was not at his best and that although he was ‘a young Adonis of exciting potential’ he still needed to develop his grafting skills.

Following the match in Rosario it was back to Buenos Aires for the second and final international for which England named an unchanged side. The tourists ended their tour triumphantly with ‘a performance of great character and resilience’ to win by 12 points to six and so become the first home nation to win a two match series in Argentina for almost 30 years. The tourists’ forwards performed magnificently and Jeavons had his best game of the tour.

In summing up the tour West commented that ‘Jeavons, with his work rate and scope of activity last Saturday, proved there is more to his game than some sceptics suppose.’