Retrospective caps for Irish players set to reignite debate in Scotland

Should players who represented Scotland during the amateur era in games which would now rank as full Test matches be officially recognised?

Jim Carswell (far left) and David Ashton (fourth from left) played in a strong Scotland side which defeated Japan in a non-cap international in 1976.
Jim Carswell (far left) and David Ashton (fourth from left) played in a strong Scotland side which defeated Japan in a non-cap international in 1976.

THE decision by a special committee of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to award caps retrospectively to 12 players who represented Ireland prior to 1986 against teams which were not “original” rugby playing nations – England, Scotland, Wales, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – is set to re-energise the campaign for a similar step in Scotland.

Ireland played 19 games against national sides where caps were not awarded, and in 14 of those games, caps were awarded by their opponents. In all, 12 players played in those 14 games but never in a “capped” international, and they will now be presented with their international cap in recognition of this at a pre-match event ahead of Ireland’s World Cup warm-up match against England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 19th August.

From a statistical point of view the players will receive their Irish International player number today as opposed to retrospectively going back and reordering every Irish player’s player number. Nor will the past caps and points records be adjusted for those games. Ireland’s most recently capped player Joe McCarthy (v Australia in 2022) is Irish cap #1141, therefore the 12 individuals would be designated as Irish international player #1142 to #1153.


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Among the players being awarded retrospective caps is Frank O’Driscoll, the father of Irish rugby legend, Brian O’Driscoll.

In 2018, the 112 women’s internationals who represented Ireland between 1993 to 2005, (the period prior to the IWRFU’s integration into the IRFU) were presented with caps at a ceremony at Aviva Stadium.

“There was unanimous support from the IRFU Committee for this initiative which will give due recognition to these 12 players who represented Ireland in the amateur era,” said IRFU President John Robinson.

“This is an important acknowledgement of their efforts as times have evolved and I know that this cap ceremony will bring great pride and recognition to the players themselves, their families and indeed to their clubs. I look forward to welcoming the players and their guests to Aviva Stadium in August.”

List of names, Clubs at the time, Year Capped & Ireland Cap Number:

  • Jack Belton (Old Belvedere) 1946 – #1142
  • Hugh Dolan (UCD) 1946 – #1143
  • Hugh Greer (NIFC) 1946 – #1144
  • Jack Guiney (Bective Rangers) 1946 – #1145
  • Des Thorpe (Old Belvedere) 1946 – #1146
  • Paul Traynor (Clontarf) 1952 – #1147
  • John Birch (Ballymena) 1970 – #1148
  • Frank O’Driscoll (UCD) 1970 – #1149
  • Leo Galvin (Athlone) 1973 – #1150
  • Emmet O’Rafferty (Wanderers) 1976 – #1151
  • Rab Brady (Ballymena) 1985 – #1152
  • Paul Clinch (Lansdowne) 1989 – #1153

Former SRU President Ian Barr started the ball rolling on identifying players and formulating a process for recognising former men and women players who fall into a similar bracket in Scotland soon after he took office in 2020 and that process is apparently on-going at Murrayfield.

Writing for this website in December 2021, Matt Vallance highlighted 23 players who he believes should be recognised with retrospective caps.  To read that article click HERE.

A week later, he also made the case for 29 players who represented the country in ‘Services Internationals’ and the ‘Victory Internationals’ between 1942 and 1946 to be awarded ‘President’s Caps’. To read that article click HERE.

Jed-Forest back-rower Ronnie Kirkpatrick played non-cap internationals against the USA and Canada in 1991
Jed-Forest back-rower Ronnie Kirkpatrick played non-cap internationals against the USA and Canada in 1991

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About David Barnes 3816 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.