Just recently there were hand-outs of caps at the Rugby World Cup, some of them perched ridiculously on mops of hair. For many,. many years we have spoken of how many caps a player has.
School House was the sporting heart of Rugby School and in 1839 when Queen Adelaide, the popular wife of William IV, came to the school to watch a game of football, Schools House vs the Rest.
School House wore red velvet caps in her honour, the colour of royalty, adding some colkour to their white shirts and shorts. After that players at Rugby were allowed to wear caps as a sign that they could follow up, i.e. take a full part in the game not just linger in the goals.
Caps and capping are not governed by the International Rugby Board and its regulations. They are not a part of the laws of the game. Each organising body presents caps at it sees fit at international, representative, club and school levels. They do it as they seem fit.
When we speak of a player having so many caps, we mean the internationals (Tests) that he has played. But a country may choose to issue a cap to somebody who never played a Test, as was the case with England's Harry Eagles and Percy Robertshaw in 1888 and Bruce Deans of New Zealand a century later.You get matches where one side awards caps while the other does not.
Sometimes the caps are not tangibly available - oversight or economics or whatever. In fact the first caps awarded to South Africans were not available but made available retrospectively. But those caps were important because for the first time the springbok was acknowledged as a sporting symbol in South Africa,
Gerald Orpen was the one who pushed hardest for the Springbok. It had been hope that it could be used in 1903, the third series against a touring team. Caps so elaborate could not be made in South Africa and had to come from London. The award was made retrospective - free to the 1903 side and purchasable for the 1891 and 1896 sides.
Before the Springbok team left for the 20112 Rugby World Cup, the 30 players were capped.
After arriving in New Zealand, each player received a World Cup cap.
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