1974 Five Nations Championship

1974 Five Nations Championship

1974 Five Nations Championship
Date 19 January 1974 - 16 March 1974
Countries  England
Tournament statistics
Champions  Ireland (8th title)
Calcutta Cup  Scotland
Matches played 10
1973 (Previous) (Next) 1975

The 1974 Five Nations Championship was the forty-fifth series of the rugby union Five Nations Championship. Including the previous incarnations as the Home Nations and Five Nations, this was the eightieth series of the northern hemisphere rugby union championship. Ten matches were played between 19 January and 16 March. It was contested by England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The championship was won by Ireland, the team's eighth outright title (seven other titles had been shared with other teams).

This was the first time ever that two games were played on the same weekend. This was brought in after the request from some teams, who complained that they had to always play early on in the year when bad weather prevailed, but others played in March, when the weather was better.

To get round this problem, the new format saw each team play each other's fixtures in a rotational period of scheduling. As an example, Scotland played England last in 1975, 1980, 1985. In 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, the Scotland v England fixture was on the second weekend.


Position Nation Games Points Table
Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Difference
1  Ireland 4 2 1 1 50 45 +5 5
2  Scotland 4 2 0 2 41 35 +6 4
2  Wales 4 1 2 1 43 41 +2 4
2  France 4 1 2 1 43 53 −10 4
5  England 4 1 1 2 63 66 −3 3


19 January 1974
France  9–6  Ireland
19 January 1974
Wales  6–0  Scotland

2 February 1974
Ireland  9–9  Wales
2 February 1974
Scotland  16–14  England

16 February 1974
Wales  16–16  France
16 February 1974
England  21–26  Ireland

2 March 1974
Ireland  9–6  Scotland
2 March 1974
France  12–12  England

16 March 1974
Scotland  19–6  France
16 March 1974
England  16–12  Wales


The 1974 Championship is known for a refereeing decision that eventually lead to a new phrase "Blind Irish Referee" entering the English language lexicon, in Wales and amongst followers of Rugby.

Rugby Background, Welsh emergence stalled by indecisive tournaments

The late 1960s and the 1970s were a period of considerable success for the Welsh National Rugby team, (the Second Golden Era), where Wales won a number of Championships, Triple Crowns and Grandslams.

Going into the championship Wales were the most recent team to have won the Five Nations Championship outright, having won a Grandslam in 1971. Both the 1972 and 1973 tournaments were indecisive for different reasons.

1972 was a high point of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, indeed, Bloody Sunday took place the day after Ireland's first match of the tournament, away to France. Due to Wales and Scotland's refusal to play away in Dublin in this context, the competition was not completed. Whilst Wales were top of the table, with three wins out of three, Ireland were the only other undefeated team having won both their matches.

The 1973 Championship was a five way tie, with all Five Nations having won two and lost two games. (Using modern Competition Rules, Wales would have won with Ireland having a claim to second place).

Cultural Background, the emergence of Max Boyce

This period also saw the emergence of Max Boyce into the public eye. He appeared on a TV talent show in 1973, and his breakthrough record, "Live at Treorchy" was recorded in the autumn of 1973. The 1974 tournament would therefore have been the first when he, and his signature song, "Hymns and Arias" were more widely known.

The immediate build up

The 1974 tournament was closely contested with three of the matches ending in draws. Ireland started their tournament with a loss away to France, but improved results meant that after the penultimate round of matches Ireland sat at the top of the table with five points but would sit out the final round of matches. At this stage both France and Wales had a game in hand, France against Scotland in Murrayfield, and Wales against England in Twickenham. If either of the won their matches they would overtake Ireland. Wales had not lost to England at Twickenham for over a decade.

Twickenham, Welsh hopes go West

In the final round of matches France were defeated by Scotland. However the defining match of the competition took place at Twickenham. The match was refereed by John West, an Irishman who had never refereed an international match previously. England lead, but late in the game JJ Williams scored a try, but it was disallowed by the referee. England held on to win their first match, and Ireland won the Championship.[1]

The Aftermath, the Sunshine Home in Dublin and Beyond

Shortly after Max Boyce composed a homage to Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E", "The R-E-F-E-R-E-E." in reference to the events. He also wrote and performed a poem which ended with the phrase "Blind Irish Referees",.[2]

Wales went on to win honours in the next five seasons. Despite the dominance of Wales in the later 1970s, and the lean years of 1980s and 90s, the climax of 1974 tournament at Twickenham remains engrained in the Welsh rugby psyche, and the term "Blind Irish Referee" established itself in the lexicon.

Despite being the original "Blind Irish Referee", John West went on to have a long career as an international referee, and later became a citing commissioner, ,[3][4] A white stick sent to him shortly after the events of 1974 was to become one of his most prized possessions.[5]

As recently as the 2011 World Cup, the events of 1974 remained the frame of reference in Wales during discourse of another "Irish" referee, Alain Rolland's decision to send off Sam Warburton in the Semi Final.[6]

The term is now in use beyond Wales [7]

External links

  • 1974 Five Nations Results

  • The official RBS Six Nations Site


Preceded by
1973 Five Nations
Five Nations Championship
Succeeded by
1975 Five Nations