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WJ 'John' Hoare known as 'Old Stager' was one of the leading rugby journalists of the 1920s & 30s in Wales. Almost as popular as the players themselves 'OId Stager' amongst other things was invited to kick off in charity matches and give talks on the tactics of the game. As an influential member of the South Wales press core, his criticism of the Welsh selection policy in the 1920s led to the creation of a five man selection panel. He then named them the 'Big Five', a term which became as famous as the team itself. To avoid confusion, there were two 'Old Stagers', the first 'JR Stephens' covered rugby in South Wales around the 1890s to early 1900s, our Old Stager was the SW Echo, SW Argus & Western Mail writer of the 1920s and 1930s, he also wrote for some of the leading London based dailies under pen names. He was a prolific writer, a fine example of his work was the front page of the South Wales Football Echo on the day when Wales defeated New Zealand in 1935, almost the complete front page is written by Old Stager, this for an evening paper which would hit the streets within 90 minutes of the match finishing, a phenomenal feat ! 

Old Stager



Wales v Ireland 1936

Wales triumphed 3 - 0 in this championship decider at Cardiff Arms Park, Vivian Jenkins kicking the vital penalty goal to clinch the title for Wales. The main headlines however were for the 70,000 crowd who squeezed themselves into the 55,000 capacity stadium. The overspill onto the pitch meant that players and spectators alike were at risk from injury, likewise the crush in the terraces produced one fatality and several injuries. Old Stager calls heartily for a main stadium for Welsh rugby at either Cardiff or Swansea in his post match Western Mail and South Wales Echo reports.

These are very large photos and will take a while to open  

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Old Stager was invited to address the 'Brigade of Guards' at Caterham Barracks in 1927. During his talk he called for a uniformity of rules amongst nations and for International Board to accept France, please click on the illustration to the left for the full report. 




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The legend lives on ! a copy of the 1935 re-union of the 1905 Welsh team dinner menu. A dinner given at the Park Hotel, Cardiff on the eve of the 1935 Wales v New Zealand encounter. This is the personal copy of the Old Stager, seated far left. A large 8 page card menu which contains a superb illustration by cartoonist JC Walker (believed to be staff cartoonist of W Mail & Echo) featuring the top table at the dinner, players and officials featured are 'Old Stager' (journalist), Gwyn Nicholls, Rhys Gabe, Horace Lyne, David Rocyn Jones & Walter Rees. Other pages contain the menu, toast list, players photos and details. This copy is signed by 39 including Teddy Morgan, Cliff Pritchard, Willie Llewellyn & Rhys Gabe. This illustration also appeared in the SW Echo on the following day. (WRM-0110)


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Miniature balls were produced by Gilbertís as gifts & keepsakes. They were popular with touring teams who presented signed miniatures to their hosts. This is a miniature ball signed by the 1938 British Lions. We are unsure as to whether Old Stager travelled to South Africa with the Lions, it is probable that this ball was given to him by one of the Lions on their return. Jim Unwin, a 1938 tourist had 3 or 4 of these balls in his cillection brought back from South Africa. (WRM-0234)



HELP ! MORE INFO NEEDED................... 

We are looking for match reports and newspaper articles written by Old Stager, especially relating to the 'Big Five'. Any help provided will be credited on this 'Old Stager' page when complete. 


Please CLICK HERE to email us at World Rugby Museum if you are able to help !  




Many thanks to the following people who have helped with the story of 'Old Stager'

Lillian Prosser Kjellander - Old Stager's niece

Roberta J Ball - Old Stager's grand niece

John Griffiths - Rugby Historian



"Fields of Praise" David Smith & Gareth Williams

South Wales Echo, various editions

"100 Years of Scarlet" Gareth Hughes


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