From Tobruk to the tryline

In spring 1944, POWs interned in Stalag IV-B were gripped by a Six Nations-style tournament dubbed “the world cup”. John Ash goes back to the touchline and finds out the score

POW rugby, the surprise moraleboosting hit and international pastime that overcame hardship and privations
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“South Africa has a unique record in rugby, forged in perhaps its most exceptional competition… It demanded a huge sacrifice, and it was for nought other than glory – well, and for something to do”

With the 2023 Rugby Union World Cup underway, there has rarely been a more exciting time to be a fan of rugger. Will France or Ireland become only the second northern hemisphere team, after England, to lift the Webb Ellis Cup? Can England, under new management, restore past glories? Will New Zealand add to an unrivalled record – or will the Springboks blunt Kiwi dominance?

Whatever the outcome, South Africa has a unique record forged in perhaps rugby’s most exceptional competition. As this Springbok team does not appear in any official record, its story has been forgotten. Nevertheless, some argue it showcased South African rugby as much as any touring side.

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