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Penguin International RFC - Life in the Fast Line

Penguins | Saturday 1st July 2006 0:00am

Penguin International RFC, an amateur club, was founded 47 years ago by the late Tony Mason (P.Life President) and Alan Wright (President) - both Vice Presidents of Kent County RFU and former players of Sidcup RFC. The principal objective of the Club is to foster the growth, goodwill and camaraderie of Rugby Union football throughout the world, accompanied by a programme of coaching and refereeing seminars. Playing membership is by invitation.

Penguin International RFC is the most travelled international rugby club in the world, having played in or against teams from 57 countries in four Continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas).

Distinguished Presidents of the Club have included:

  • Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck GCB CGIE CSI DSO OBE LLD
  • Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader CBE DSO DFC FRAcS DL
  • Sir Robert Lawrence CBE ERD
  • D.H. Harrison CBE
  • Air Commodore R.H.G. Weighill CBE DFC
  • Sir Peter Yarranton
  • Sir William Purves CBE DSO

On an historical note, Douglas Bader was one of our most famous fighter “aces” in World War II; “The Auk” was Britain’s first General to defeat Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the first battle at El Alamein and the only Field Marshal to be appointed on two occasions as C-in-C of the Indian Army; Dougie Harrison and Peter Yarranton both served as Presidents of the Rugby Football Union, and Bob Weighill was Secretary of both the RFU and the International Rugby Board. Sir William Purves was probably the most distinguished professional banker of the 20th century, being Chairman of HSBC. He was the only National Service officer in the British Army to be awarded a DSO.

The Club’s current committee is drawn from 15 nations and its Chairman is Tom Wacker (a member of the USA RU Committee and past Chief Executive of the International Rugby Board). The committee also includes such luminaries as Craig Brown, Director of Rugby (Waikato, NZ Maoris), Ian Bullerwell (Bedford, and former International Referee), Bill Calcraft (Oxford University & Australia), Luis Criscuolo (Argentina), António da Cunha (Portugal); and Derek Wyatt MP, Chairman of the All Party Rugby Union Committee.

In October 2002, Penguins played a special match against British Universities at Iffley Road, Oxford, to commemorate and honour Derek Morgan’s presidency of the Rugby Football Union. Derek has served on the Penguin committee for over 28 years, and captained the Penguin tour to Zambia in 1972. He has also been a principal officer of the Students RFU. It was the first time in 30 years that British Universities had fielded a representative team, and the historic match was won by the Penguins 50:17.

Tony Mason was the Club’s inspirational selector and team manager for over 35 years, and one of his principal memories was the Centenary Match the Penguins played at Twickenham in 1967 against Twickenham RFC, where he played alongside his son, Michael (Sidcup, Clifton & Kent). This occasion is believed to be the one and only time that a father and son have played in the same team on this hallowed turf.

Apart from commemorative and charity games, the Club’s regular fixtures over the past 27 years have been Oxford University RFC and Cambridge University RFC - as a result of which, a large number of Blues have played for the Penguins during this period.

The Club has been privileged to be captained by outstanding players from many countries, including David Pickering (Wales) - Jersey 1965; Bill Redwood (England) - Zambia 1968; Fergus Slattery (Ireland & British Lions) - Zimbabwe and South Africa 1973; Chris Sheasby (England) - Italy 1983; Bill Calcraft (Australia) - Hong Kong Sevens 1987 and 1988, Belgium 1990; Rob Wainwright (Scotland) - Sweden and Denmark 1994; and Waisale Serevi (Fiji) - Middlesex Sevens 1999 and 2000.

The Penguins’ association with the abbreviated game commenced in 1987 when, with some 10 days before the start of the Hong Kong Sevens, we received a late invitation to participate. In spite of the short notice, the Club put together a young team, captained by Bill Calcraft. Martin Offiah, the youngest at 18yrs, amazed the crowd by scoring three tries in the opening tie against the French Barbarians, the previous year’s Finalists. Penguins eventually reached the Semi Finals, losing to the All Blacks. In 1988, the Penguins returned to Hong Kong, and the members of that memorable team included David Kirk, captain of New Zealand, who the first World Cup. Again, it was not possible for the Penguin squad to overcome a well-trained international team, and the Semi Final was lost to New Zealand in a very tight contest.

Subsequently, the Club has won tournaments all over the world, including the Italian RU’s International Sevens, 1993 & 1994; Malaysian Tens, 1993 & 1994; Stockholm Tens, 1994; Thai RU’s International Sevens, 1999; the Middlesex Sevens, back to back in 1999 and 2000; the Grand Prix of Europe, 2001; and the Mexican RU International Tens 2004.

The Penguins first ten-a-side tournament was the Malaysian Tens in 1993 when they were captained by David Pickering (Wales). The team included Tony Underwood (Leicester & England) and Damien Hopley (Wasps & England), and Penguins won the Final 21:3 against Fiji.

Penguins won the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham in 1999 and 2000, captained on both occasions by Waisale Serevi (Fiji). In 1999 victory came, most unusually, only after a “sudden death” play off, when both sides had scored 35 points. The second occasion, in 2000, had a unique aspect in as much as it was the only time two of the best Sevens players in the world played in the same team - namely, Eric Rush (captain, New Zealand 7’s) and Waisale Serevi (captain, Fiji & Fiji 7’s). Eric observed in a post-match speech that he had spent 13 years chasing Serevi’s tail!

Over the years, the Club has undertaken a number of tours at the request of the Rugby Football Union including Belgium in 1964; Zambia in 1968; Sri Lanka 1979 (to celebrate their centenary); India 1990 (to celebrate the gift of the Calcutta Cup; and in 1977, the Club represented England in the USSR tournament to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Russian Revolution - in the process of winning this tournament the Club defeated Czechoslovakia, Poland, the USSR and Romania, which at that time had a strong national team.

For most of its history the Club’s limited funds came from voluntary donations made by its Vice Presidents. However, in 1996, HSBC, the world’s second largest bank and the biggest bank in Europe, became sponsors of the Club, since which time the Penguins have been proud to wear the HSBC logo on their jerseys. HSBC has 9,800 offices in 79 countries/territories and is known as ‘The world’s local bank’.

This sponsorship has assisted in the following International tours where the Club has mainly played National XVs.

1997: Czech Republic



1998: Brazil




1999: Croatia

Czech Republic



2000: People's Republic of China


2001: Argentina



2002: Canada




2004: Hong Kong



2005: Malaysia


Line 3b


In 2004, by agreement with the Club’s sponsors HSBC, the Club founded the HSBC / Penguin International Coaching Academy - ably directed by Craig Brown (Waikato, NZ Maoris) - thus strengthening the long-established policies of HSBC and Penguin International RFC of helping to advance the game as part of “Education in the Community”. In recent years, the Academy has undertaken coaching in the People’s Republic of China, Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico, Malaysia and Malta.

Penguins made an historic tour to the People’s Republic of China in the year 2000, being the first European team to be invited to play their National team. The two matches were played in Shanghai and were won by the Club.

This year, the Club had the honour of playing Paris University Past & Present at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris, to celebrate PUC’s centenary. Penguins were captained by Rod Moore (Australia) and the squad included Craig de Goldi (NZ 7’s star), Bob Henderson (Ireland & Lions) and Peter Jorgensen (Australia). Penguins won 40:7

The Club’s playing membership has been drawn from no less than 30 countries, and during the final match played against the Combined Western Provinces in Argentina in 2001, the team contained players from no less than 12 countries, including Tonga, Italy, Argentina and Fiji.

The Club’s administration and its international status has greatly been extended and enhanced in the last 10 years under the direction of Alan Wright, co-founder and now President of the Club, who has served as an officer of the club since its inception in 1959 - firstly as Hon. Secretary, for some 35 years, and subsequently as Chief Executive and Chairman.

An edition of The International Rugby Almanack stated “If there was a vote by players the world over for the most popular club, the result would be Penguin International RFC”.

10s 1999 2000 2001 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2019 2nd 7s achievement All Blacks anniversary Asia award book Cambridge Cape Town celebrate charity christmas club coaching cobra committee defence dinner donations double education endorse film Gibraltar history Hong Kong honour HSBC India Indonesia invitation IRANZ king Kuala Lumpur Leeds London magazine Malaysia match newsletter paypal Pingvins play present press brief RAC relationship report Rugby Rocks Rugby World Rwanda Singapore South Africa sponsor support tour tournament Tsunami Sport tv win winter world cup youth
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