After Bryn won the battle of the Gatlands at the weekend, Jacob Whitehead looks at some other family showdowns
Seven of the Best: Family Affairs
Rugby is back, and it only took eighty minutes to provide its first historic talking point. Warren Gatland’s Chiefs had their hopes dashed by a last-gasp drop-goal from son Bryn, giving the Highlanders a 28-27 win in the first game of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
While Gatland Jr may be responsible for the most heart-breaking intra-family defeat, family affairs are nothing new to rugby. In Super Rugby Aotearoa alone, last week saw the Lienert-Brown brothers face-off in the Highlanders-Chiefs match-up, while we were only denied a tussle between the Barrett brothers by Jordie’s shoulder injury.
But what other household battles have there been throughout rugby history? Who has been struck off the Christmas present list, or has had to sit awkwardly through an angsty family meal? Here are seven of the best…
Owen Farrell v Andy Farrell
One of the fiercest family feuds currently raging is that between Owen Farrell and his father Andy. Having previously coached Owen for Saracens, England, and the Lions, Andy’s appointment as Ireland defence coach under Joe Schmidt in 2016 was a massive shock – the two had even played together for Saracens back in 2008.
He kept his son’s attack quiet in their first meeting in 2017, as Ireland recorded a 13-9 victory, but Owen currently leads the series 3-2, including directing England to a 24-12 victory at Twickenham this year, after Andy ascended to Ireland’s top job.
George Ford v Joe Ford
George Ford’s 2009 debut against Leeds Carnegie was already memorable. He was the youngest rugby union player to ever debut at the age of only 16 years and 237 days, breaking school-mate Owen Farrell’s record.
But even stranger was the fly-half who opposed him across the field – his big brother Joe, still only 19 himself. George kicked seven points and acquitted himself well, but was outshone by his elder sibling, who kicked five goals, scored the opening try, and won man of the match.
The two would later play together at Leicester, but rest assured, it seems George has finally stepped out of Joe’s shadow now…
Campese Ma’afu v Salesi Ma’afu
George making his debut against his elder brother is strange. But what about the tale of two brothers each making their international debuts against each other?
This odd scenario occurred for the Ma’afu family back in 2010, and involved three brothers, each of whom represent a different nation. Eldest Salesi played for Australia, middle brother Campese was selected for Fiji, while youngest Apakuki was chosen by Tonga.
Campese described being scouted by Fiji for their test against the Wallabies, only for a phone call from Salesi to reveal his selection at prop for Australia. The two packed down against each other for 70 minutes, with Salesi emerging the happier after a 49-3 victory.
Harriet Millar-Mills v Bridget Millar-Mills
Harriet and Bridget Millar-Mills made history in 2013 as the first sisters to face each other in a rugby international. The two both grew up in Manchester, but Bridget chose to represent Scotland owing to their mother, who grew up in Hamilton.
She started that year’s Six Nations game at second-row, with Harriet then coming off the bench for England in a 76-0 triumph for the Red Roses. There was more family angst in that game, with Amber Reed, the niece of Scotland and Lions legend Andy, making her first Six Nations start in the centre for England.
Despite the result it was a proud day for the Millar-Mills family, who you may even recognise from last year’s Guinness Six Nations advert.
George Nepia Sr v George Nepia Jr
Brothers often play against each other, fathers can coach against sons – but it’s certainly not often that fathers play against their sons at the top level. However, this situation unfolded way back in 1950 in New Zealand,
George Nepia Sr was a legendary All Black, one of the first superstar Maori players, and the golden boy of the 1924-25 touring side, nicknamed the Invincibles. He was still going strong at the age of 45, when he captained an Olympians invitational XV against Poverty Bay.
The pre-match handshake must have been odd, for the opposing captain was none other than son George Nepia Jr, also turning out at full-back. Age triumphed over youth, as the Olympians prevailed 17-11, while Nepia Sr simultaneously broke the record for the eldest New Zealander to feature in a first-class match.
Graham Bachop v Stephen Bachop
Before 2000 players were allowed to represent more than one international side, and no players exploited this loophole more than the Bachop brothers. Graeme and Steve had played as a half-back partnership for the All Blacks four times in 1994, but would next appear on a rugby pitch together in very different circumstances.
Having moved to Japan in 1995, Graeme qualified for the national side through residency rules, and became their starting scrum-half for the 1999 World Cup in Wales. Japan’s opening match in Wrexham came against Samoa – who sported his brother Steve, qualified through family heritage, at fly-half.
The pair were the first to ever play against each other in a Rugby World Cup match, with Steve’s Samoan side running away to a 43-9 victory.
The coming weeks may see more family arguments in the Bachop house. Hurricanes stand-off Jackson Garden-Bachop, Steve’s son, will take on his cousin, Aaron Mauger, who coaches the Highlanders.
Tana Umaga v Mike Umaga
Imagine not just losing to your brother but losing in a game where your brother played a starring role. Such a fate befell Samoan back Mike Umaga, whose younger brother Tana rampaged through the centre for the All Blacks in a 1999 meeting.
There seemed no love lost between them – Tana picking out his brother for a bone-juddering collision within the first minute. He would score two tries in a massive 71-13 win for New Zealand, while his brother would never appear for Samoa again after that year. Mike later moved to England, where his son Jacob now plays fly-half for Wasps.
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