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James Bevan – first captain of Wales



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James Bevan was the first player to captain Wales in a rugby international. He was not Welsh-born, but born in Australia.

Now when Australia and Wales meet they will play for the James Bevan trophy, and in the Welsh side will be Brett Cockbain, not Welsh-born but born in Australia.

Australia have done this before. When they play they Lions they play for the Tom Richard Trophy.


Richards was born in Australia and played for Australia but also for the British & Irish Lions.


This could be done for matches between other countries as well where players have played for both countries – Barry Heatlie, who played for South Africa and Argentina, Enrico Rodriguez who played for Australia and Argentina, George Aitken who played for New Zealand and Scotland, Douglas Keller who played for Australia and Scotland, William Holmes who played for Argentina and England, Jamie Salmon who played for New Zealand and England.



Evan Jessep, Des O’Connor and Owen Stephens played for Australia and New Zealand but they are probably happy with the Bledisloe Cup. Hugh Ferris, an Irishman, and Jack Gage, a South African, played for Ireland and South Africa. Frank Mellish played for England and South Africa in the same calendar year.



Alexander Frew played for Scotland then captained South Africa. Those are players who actually played for two countries. If we looked at born in one and played for another we should have a vast source of trophies.

Jim Bevan did not play in Australia, let alone for Australia. He played just once for Wales but as the captain – the first captain, and firsts always count more than others.

James Alfred Bevan was born in the suburb of Caulfield, Melbourne, on 15 April 1858. He died in Leytonstone, England, on 3 February 1938. His father was Welsh, from Grosmont near Abergavenny, and emigrated to Australian in 1848, and he prospered there. In 1866, when Jim was not yet eight. James Bevan, the father, his wife Elizabeth and their two daughters and Jim, were returning to Australia on the SS London when a storm struck their ship in the Bay of Biscay and 251 passengers drowned, including the Bevan parents and one of their daughters.

James and his sister were brought up by relatives in Wales. He went to Hereford Cathedral School and then up to Cambridge to read law. He graduated and was articled to a solicitor when he entered the church. The father of thirteen children, six of his seven sons also became clergymen, one the Bishop of Szechwan in China.

Jim Bevan was a good sportsman – a sprinter and a long-jumper, a cricketer, a golfer and rugby at which he won Blues in 1877, as a halfback, and 1880 as a three-quarter. He also played for Newport. He nearly won the 1880 Varsity match with a dropped goal but, after a lengthy debate, the umpires did not allow it and the match ended in a draw. In his days there were two players who played in the three-quarters, and when he captained Wales in 1880 he was one of the two players who played three-quarter way back – forwards, half-way backs, three-quarter way backs and fully backs.

The match was played on Richardson’s Field in Blackheath and the team called Wales took a terrible pasting. At that stage the Welsh Rugby Union had not yet been founded and the team was chosen by Richard Mullock, who became the union’s first secretary and treasurer. The team was sometimes referred to as Mullock’s Private Team, but it stands in the record book as the first welsh team. Ten of the side never again played for Wales, including Bevan of Cambridge University.

England, who had been playing Tests for ten years by 1881, walloped Wales, who had had a few warm-up matches against county sides. England scored 13 tries, seven conversions and a dropped goal in days before there were

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