History 2 of 3

2. History 2

The Middle Years

Pre-Second World War and the Greatest Ever Wasp

Prior to the Second World War the Club thrived enjoying perhaps its finest season in 1930/31 when the team was captained by Ronnie Swyer. The season saw Wasps unbeaten, notching up 530 points in the process and conceding only 76.
This particular team was noted for having amongst its ranks perhaps the most-famous of all Wasps players, Neville Compton.
Neville joined Wasps in 1925, going on to captain the side for eight years between 1939 and 1947 and became the first Wasps player to represent the Club at Barbarian level.
Unfortunately Neville was not destined to be the first Wasps player to gain an international cap in the post-war era, this particular accolade going to Pat Sykes, capped by England against France in Paris on the 29th March 1948.
However, Neville Compton continued to work tirelessly for Wasps, replacing his father as Fixture Secretary in 1959 and becoming President of the Club between 1970 and 1973.
Neville finally retired in 1988 and sadly for the Club and Rugby Union in general, he passed away the following year.

1945 - 1967

The war years lead towards the Club's centenary

The Second World War brought many great players to Sudbury as Military Service inadvertently centred rugby talent in London. Perhaps the most notable of these were the great Welsh internationals Vivian Jenkins and Harry Bowcott who later became President of the Welsh Rugby Union.
This period saw the Club graduate to being one of the major Rugby Union forces in England with an ever-increasing number of fixtures to fulfil.
The increased workload seemed to pay dividends, however, with many players gaining international recognition - great England players such as the aforementioned Pat Sykes (7 caps), Ted Woodward (15 caps, including 6 tries), Bob Stirling (18 caps), Richard Sharp (14 caps), Don Rutherford (14 caps and later RFU Technical Director) and Peter Yarranton (5 caps and 1991 RFU President). The Club's 90th Birthday Present in 1956/57 was the rare honour of playing a full International XV at Twickenham, the home of English Rugby.

1967 - 1996

The Centenary Year up to the Modern Era

Wasps celebrated their Centenary Year by gracing the playing fields of Rugby School, where William Webb Ellis originally picked the ball up and ran in 1823, thereby creating the early origins of Rugby Football. The team played two games on the Close against the famous Barbarians and local London rivals Harlequins.
The 1970s were a pretty rough period in terms of the on-field activities of the team until the arrival in 1979 of two world-class players. Mark Taylor (capped 10 times for New Zealand) and Roger Uttley (British Lion, 23 England caps, and England Grand Slam coach) transformed the fortunes of the team producing a veritable flood of international honours in the Eighties.
Both Maurice Colclough and former Director of Rugby, Nigel Melville represented the British Lions and England in this period, their talents being supplemented in the formidable form of Geoff Richards (Australia), and England's Nick Stringer (5 caps) and Huw Davies (21 caps).
In the two-year period between 1983 and 1985 no less than nine Wasps players represented England - Maurice Colclough, Nick Stringer, Huw Davies, Nigel Melville, Andy Dun, Rob Lozowski, Mark Bailey, Simon Smith and Paul Rendall. Later in the decade, the Club was again represented heavily internationally with Rob Andrew, Kevin Simms, Fran Clough, Jeff Probyn, Dean Ryan, Chris Oti and Steve Bates all playing for England.
England representation reached its peak in May 1989 when Rob Andrew captained the full international side against Romania, David Pegler captained the England B side against Spain and Steve Pilgrim captained the under 21 team again against Romania. For the record, all the teams won on the day.
Not surprisingly, Wasps were regular visitors to Twickenham in this period. They were John Player Cup (now the Pilkington Cup) finalists in 1986 and 1987, unfortunately losing both matches to Bath in exciting, well-contested battles. The period also saw the advent of the League system (1988) which has since seen Wasps runners-up twice.
The 1990s began in style with Wasps being crowned as English National Champions, before going on to meet French National Champions, Racing Club de France, in the Courage Challenge Cup. In this forerunner to the current European Cup, Wasps ran out eventual winners 23-13, clinching their only major European honours.