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1920 and 1924 US Olympic rugby teams admitted to Hall of Fame

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irb.com     01 Jul 2012     getty

Comprising players selected mainly from Californian universities and funded by the Olympic Club of San Francisco, the USA Olympic team won gold at successive Olympic Games in Antwerp (1920) and Paris (1924). The induction is in recognition of the pioneering feats in the development and promotion of the Game in the United States.

IRB Council Member and President of the North America Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) Bob Latham presented the ceremonial cap and gold pin to Mike Strain (Director, Olympic Club of San Francisco) and John Compaglia (President, Northern California Rugby Club) at a special induction ceremony during the half-time break at the final of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy between USA and Japan at Salt Lake City on Saturday.

The USA teams become the 53rd inductee into the prestigious IRB Hall of Fame. USA remains the reigning Olympic Games Rugby champion and will have the chance to defend its title, albeit in Sevens, not Fifteens, at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.

A wonderful honour for USA Rugby

Latham said: "This is a wonderful occasion for USA Rugby. We are deeply appreciative of the IRB's action in inducting those gold medal-winning United States teams into the IRB Hall of Fame, an honour the players on those teams deserve and of which their families can be proud."

While it is perhaps a little-known fact that the USA is the reigning Olympic Rugby champion, the story of their rise to gold is fascinating. With Rugby having been played competitively for a handful of years in the States by the time of the 1920 Olympic Games, the US Olympic Committee decided to hand over the organisation and selection of the team to the California Rugby Union, with the players being selected mainly from Californian Universities, though a few came from the Olympic Club of San Francisco.

Coached by 1908 Australia Olympic Rugby Champion Daniel Carroll, who happened to be studying geology at Stanford University at the time, the USA upset the odds by defeating France 8-0 in the one and only match of the 1920 Olympic Rugby event.

The team for the 1924 Games contained only four of the gold-medal winning side from four years prior. In the opening match USA overwhelmed Romania 37-0 before setting up another final appearance against a much-fancied France side. Again, though, it was the students who prevailed, winning 17-3.

Teams played big role in growth of Rugby

The ties with those pioneering teams are strong to this day. There is little doubt that the class of 1920 and 1924 played a significant role in the growth of Rugby in a country that now boasts over 450,000 recreational and registered players.

Indeed, further recognition of the feats of the USA Olympians was today recognised with the signing of a proclamation by USA Rugby to award caps to the players who featured in those Olympic matches.

1920 squad: Danny Carroll (player/coach), Charles Doe, George Fish, James Fitzpatrick, Joseph Hunter, Morris Kirksey, Charles 'Red' Meehan, John Muldoon, John O’Neil, John 'Jack' Patrick, Cornelius 'Swede' Righter, Colby 'Babe' Slater, Rudolph 'Rudy' Scholz, Robert 'Dink' Templeton, Charles Tilden Jr (captain), Heaton Wrenn, William ‘Bill’ Muldoon, Matthew Hazeltine, Davis 'Dave' Wallace, James Winston, George Davis, Harold von Schmidt.

1924 squad: Philip Clark, Norman ‘Peabody’ Cleveland, Dudley DeGroot, Robert Devereaux, George Dixon, Charles Doe, Linn Farrish, Edward ‘Mush’ Graff, Richard ‘Dick’ Hyland, Caesar Manelli, John O’Neil, John 'Jack' Patrick, William 'Lefty' Rogers, Rudolph 'Rudy' Scholz, Colby 'Babe' Slater (captain), Norman Slater, Edward Turkington, Alan Valentine, Alan Williams, Joseph Hunter, William ‘Bill’ Muldoon, Hugh ‘Pete’ Cunningham, John Cashel., Charles Austin (coach).

About the IRB Hall of Fame:

The IRB Hall of Fame honours Rugby greats who have enhanced the Game through their exceptional achievements. Players, entire teams, administrators, coaches, referees, members of the media and Rugby personalities are considered based on their outstanding contributions.

Each year, the IRB Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to the development of the Game worldwide. The theme of this year’s induction is “Rugby – a global Game” and celebrates Rugby’s expansion to become a global sport played by millions of men and women worldwide.

The IRB Hall of Fame was launched in 2006 with the induction of Rugby School and William Webb Ellis. Since then the following legends have been inducted: Baron Pierre de Coubertin, Dr Danie Craven, Sir Wilson Whineray, Gareth Edwards, John Eales, The 1888 Natives Team and Joseph Warbrick, Ned Haig and the Melrose club, Dr Jack Kyle, Philippe Sella, Hugo Porta, William Maclagan, Barry Heatlie, Bennie Osler, Cliff Morgan, Sir Anthony O’Reilly AO, Frik du Preez, Dr. Syd Millar, Willie John McBride, Sir Ian McGeechan, Jean Prat, Lucien Mias, Andre and Guy Boniface, Serge Blanco, Harry Vassall and Alan Rotherham, Cardiff RFC and Frank Hancock, David Gallaher, Barbarian FC and WP Carpmael, Mike Gibson, Dr Roger Vanderfield, Richard Littlejohn, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, John Kendal-Carpenter, David Kirk, Sir Brian Lochore, Nick Farr-Jones, Bob Dwyer, Francois Pienaar, Kitch Christie, Rod Macqueen, Gareth Rees, Sir Clive Woodward OBE, Jonah Lomu, Jake White, Brian Lima, Agustín Pichot, Martin Johnson CBE, John Smit, Gordon Tietjens, Ian & Donald Campbell, Yoshihiro Sakata and the 1924 Romanian Olympic Team.