The dinner after the England v Wales match at Twickenham was at The Hilton in London and meant to be a swish affair.
It didn’t exactly go that way.
History tells us that the then Pontypool prop Staff Jones had enjoyed a wine gum too many when he decided to run from one end of the bar, where he’d been having a drink, and scrummage everyone who was at the said bar against a wall.
The powerful Welshman, who worked as a colliery surface worker and was renowned for his strength, soon had a group of at least six people shoved up against a wall, desperately trying to free themselves from his embrace.
Then he opted to crash-tackle an elderly committeeman who was collecting signatures on a rugby ball.
All around, eyebrows were raised.
A former RFU secretary one famously said: “The relationship between the Welsh and the English is based on trust and understanding. They don’t trust us and we don’t understand them.”
Certainly, there wasn’t a lot of understanding on English dinner tables at the function that followed that match at English rugby headquarters in 1988.
Never mind Staff Jones’ exploits.
There were other incidents that have gone down in amateur-era legend.
Cut to the speeches and the then England captain Mike Harrison coming up with an effort that seemed to traverse at least three centuries, and which clearly hadn’t been written by Billy Connolly. Attempts at humour disappeared into a void of silence among the Wales players present.
It was just then that Glenn Webbe chose to whip out a novelty box that he had bought from a joke shop in Windsor during a Wales team stop-off en route to Twickenham two days earlier.
At the push of a button, the toy released the sound of laughter with a posh voice saying: “Bravo! Bravo! Encore! Encore!”
Activated during Harrison’s speech, it soon attracted attention, not least from a table of England players seated nearby. An angry Mickey Skinner, England’s No. 6 that day, walked over to the Welsh players to challenge Webbe.
The result almost yielded an Anglo-Welsh incident for the ages as players were soon heading to the car park to settle their differences.
“The box was only a bit of fun,” Webbe told WalesOnline.
“Mike Harrison’s speech had gone on for a long time and his jokes weren’t having much success. When I brought the box out, it gained more laughs than anything Harrison said on the night.
“Skinner came across and said: ‘It’s rude. Cut it out!’
“He snatched the box and tried to smash it on the table, but it only made matters worse because as he crashed it down there were sounds of laughter and ‘Bravo! Bravo!’ Coming from the box.
“He then put it in a beer jug and there were glugging sounds of ‘Bravo! Bravo!’
“We went outside to sort the matter out with others following us.
“Before it got too bad England’s then team manager Roger Uttley came in and acted as a peacemaker, suggesting we resolve our differences with an arm wrestle.”
A table was found amid a circle of players with Webbe saying that if Skinner could hold him for three seconds he would say the Englishman had won.
It didn’t go well for Mick the Munch.
Webbe won the arm wrestle 3-0.
The Bridgend wing, Mark Ring, Ieuan Evans, Mike Hall and Jones — he of the scrummaging half-a-dozen people into a wall at the end of a bar — later decamped to Stringfellows nightclub, breezing past a huge queue before gaining entry.
It wasn’t long before champagne was flowing and four of the Welsh players taking centre stage while Jones was at the bar.
In his book, Ring Master, Ring says the Welsh quartet were making out they were a “group of rich playboys”.
The assumption is quite an impression was being made.
He continues: “Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spot Staff shuffling at the bar, which was literally about 40 yards away, I turned my attention back to the girls and next thing I heard was Staff, with his Ynysybwl miner’s accent, shout across the room at the top of his voice with his hands cupped around his mouth: ‘Boys, boys, it’s £8 a bloody half.’”
The ‘rich playboys’ had been rumbled.
Welsh celebrations had been earned, though.
It had been a memorable day.
When Wales entered the visitors’ dressing room at Twickenham among the messages left there was one from Spike Milligan, which said simply: ‘Kick f**k out of the English ba****ds’.
There really wasn’t any need to do as instructed.
That afternoon, Wales played a swaggering and confident game which saw England beaten 11-3 in a fast-and-loose encounter, with Adrian Hadley crossing for two tries, one of which saw Jonathan Davies leaving Skinner for dead with a burst of electric pace.
Davies had spent most of the match winding up Skinner —“shouting in his cheeky high-pitched Trimsaran tones: ‘Mickey, Mickey, which way am I going, then, Mickey?” remembers Ring.
“He (Skinner) spent most of the game eyeballing Jonathan, looking like he was ready to kill him.”
Each time he left him clutching thin air he would shout: ‘Da bo’ — ta-ra in Welsh.
Skinner was incensed.
But Davies lived to tell the tale.
So did Webbe but there was never any doubt about that one, anyway, with the Bridgend ace able to handle himself.
The wing’s laughter box did end up broken after being bashed on the table and dipped in a jug of beer.
But there wasn’t much else that went wrong for Wales that weekend.
This coming Saturday, two worlds will collide again.
Post-match events may play out a shade differently this time, but the Welsh class of 2022 would take the same result every time.
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