Somerset County RFU
Somerset County Rugby Football Union
The first authentic Somerset County XV made its appearance in the 1875/76 season when a match was played against Devon at Taunton. The game was very different from the one we know today. The teams usually changed in a pub and walked to the ground. The referee carried a flag and was assisted by two umpires. Heeling back in a scrum was almost unknown; the main idea was for the forwards to carry the ball on by sheer weight and strength leaving the outsides to snap up a scoring chance, generally from a pass by the halfbacks.
Times have certainly changed since then. Somerset in 2004-05 played in the third tier of County rugby competing in the County Plate Competition. Despite losing to Surrey in the final at Twickenham they have gained promotion to the second tier and will play in the CountyShield competition. Whilst there are no Premiership players representing counties there are still many players without international aspirations who think it an honour to play for the County and with their enthusiasm and loyalty Somerset will rise again.
On 6 September 1882 saw a meeting of clubs in the County held at The Clarence Hotel, Bridgwater under the Chairmanship of H G Fuller of Bath and Cambridge who was also an England international of the day. The result of the meeting was that the Somerset Rugby Union was formed.
It was in the 1890/91 season that the County Championship was established. However, it was not until 1923 that Somerset reached the final. They defeated Leicestershire by 8pts - 6 pts. Somerset also reached the final in 1935, 1939, 1984 and 1997 but have in each case have not won the final.
In season 1887-88 Somerset played against the Maoris at Wellington. In 1905-06 they played against the All Blacks at Taunton and in the following season South Africa, also at the Taunton ground. In 1908-09 Somerset entertained Australia at Taunton losing by 8 pts. In the season Somerset had the honour of supplying five members of the British touring team to New Zealand.
More than 80 players who have worn the Somerset shirt have gone on to play for their country, 60 for England and the others for Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In recent decades, amongst others, John Horton, Jon Hall, David Trick, Richard Hill, Simon Halliday, Jerry Guscott and Andy Robinson have all been Somerset players who all went on to play for England and some the British and Irish Lions. Andy Robinson of course is a previous England Head Coach.
There has been a vast number of young players from County age-grade sides that have represented England at their own level. Indeed, since 2001 no less than 35 have gained international honours.
There have been administrators in the County who have gone on to serve beyond the County. W S Donne of Castle Cary, who served on the County Committee, was President of the Rugby Football Union in 1924. Alec Lewis, in addition to being an international player was later Chairman of the England Selectors and John Garland served as the first secretary to the South West Division. Mike Curling has served as an RFU Council member, doing valuable work on their Competitions Sub-Committee. Andy Shorney is the County's present representative on the RFU Council.