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Georgia’s Rugby World Cup dream partly sown by a Llanelli punch-up | Andy Bull

In Moscow in 1957 Llanelli players were in a match marred by ‘hideous violence’. They could not have known their more silky skills would leave a lasting legacy

Of course rugby has an old law about what goes on tour. Which is why, 62 years later, we can’t be sure exactly what happened when Llanelli went off to play in Moscow at the height of the cold war. The Scarlets were “honoured guests of the Reds” one Welsh paper said, at the third International Friendly Youth Games. Only the competition seems to have been, at points, just a little less friendly than the name suggested. The Soviets did not have a national team themselves but, Llanelli’s then chairman Handel Rogers explained, “they’re keen to learn more of it and already there are moves to translate the laws of the game”. After watching Llanelli, they must have assumed the something got lost in the gloss.

Llanelli played Romania twice. The first game, a 6-6 draw, was marred by such “hideous and appalling violence” that, according to one historian, “it hindered the development of the Russian game for a number of years”. Back home in Wales the Western Mail reported “the team became the target for some strong criticism in foreign newspapers”. And it’s true that one of the Russian papers said “some of the Welshmen seemed to have come to the wrong place, they ought to have been at a boxing tournament”, while another added that “the Romanians asked the WRU to hold an inquiry into the behaviour of the Llanelli players during the match”.

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