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The Charlie Pritchard Rugby Collection


New Zealand 1905, South Africa 1906, Australia 1908
New Zealand 1905, South Africa 1906, Australia 1908

One of the most unique collection of rugby jerseys, gathered by one of Wales’ greatest sporting heroes, is to be auctioned with us on December 7th

Charlie Pritchard gathered shirts from opponents he met during his six-year, 14 cap career and almost 120 years on they are being offered for sale by his family.

Not many jerseys from the first ‘Golden Era’ of Welsh rugby at the turn of the last century remain in existence, and few in the condition of the Pritchard collection. After his tragic death on the Western Front in WW1, his widow, Florence, packed them way in boxes that remained In family lofts for more than a century.

The Newport-born forward was a hero on the field, playing in the first Grand Slam season in 1908, a Triple Crown campaign in 1905 and, of course, the first win over the touring All Blacks in Cardiff in 1905.

In addition, he played in Wales first game against South Africa (1906), and the first international staged at Twickenham, against England in 1910. He captained Newport against both New Zealand and South Africa.

But as well as being a great leader on the pitch for club and country, Pritchard was also a national hero in WW1. As a Captain in the 12th Battalion South Wales Borderers, he lost his life on 12 August 1916 in France after leading a trench raid near Loos to capture a German prisoner.

Although the raid was successful in its objective, Pritchard was seriously wounded and was carried to No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station a few miles behind the front at Chocques.

His last reported words were to ask if they had got the "Hun", and when told they had, he replied 'Well, I have done my bit.' He died of his wounds at the clearing station on 14 August 1916 and is buried in Chocques Military Cemetery.

Although the family are holding onto his Wales cap, as well as the shirt he wore in Wales 3-0 win over the ‘Original’ All Blacks in what has become known as ‘The Game of the Century’, one of the world’s leading sports memorabilia auctioneers Ben Rogers-Jones will put 15 jerseys, two caps and seven framed team photographs from the Pritchard Collection.

“This is an amazing collection of early 20th century international jerseys that were gathered by arguably the first major collector of souvenirs from opposing teams,” said Rogers-Jones, who realised a world record sum of £180,000 in 2015 when he sold the 1905 shirt worn in the same game by the All Blacks captain, Dave Gallaher.

“Charlie Pritchard swapped and collected so many shirts that he had enough to kit out a full team for local charity matches played for causes like fixing the local church roof and a junior rowing club.

Charlie Pritchard wearing the 1905 All Blacks jersey for a charity game

“It was common for players to hold onto their own shirts in those days, but this is the largest collection of jerseys I’ve ever seen connected to any one player of that era. He even picked up a rare shirt from the 1908 ‘Anglo-Welsh’ British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.”

It was one of Pritchard’s 1905 teammates against the All Blacks, Arthur ‘Boxer’ Harding, who led the Lions. There were 12 Welshmen on the tour, and the shirt being offered was worn by Neath’s uncapped forward, Bob Green.

Pritchard wasn’t selected for the tour, which was criticised for being based around middle class players from England and Wales. The Scots pulled out in protest at ‘professional’ attitudes in the game in New Zealand.

Of the 12 Welsh players selected, six were former pupils at Christ College, Brecon. Three more were trainee doctors at Guy’s Hospital, two more were Oxbridge graduates and many others came from Public School backgrounds.

“There is still a huge fascination for, and interest in, the game in Cardiff on 23 December 1905. It was the only game that the All Blacks lost on their tour and was their first international defeat. Jerseys worn in that game raise huge sums,” added Rogers-Jones.

“The distinctive New Zealand jersey belonged to Frank Glasgow, a loose forward from Dunedin who featured in all five on the tour. He was a major success story on the tour, playing in 27 of the 35 matches, and emerging as the leading scorer amongst the forwards with a points tally of 32.

“The jersey bears his number, No 7, on the back. It is listed with a guide price of between £20-40,000, while the Lions shirt is priced between £15-25,000.”

Rogers-Jones recently raised his world record for a rugby jersey to £240,000 when he was commissioned to sell the ‘Sir Gareth Edwards Collection’.

That was for the shirt he wore when he scored ‘The Greatest Try’ in the win by the Barbarians over New Zealand in Cardiff at the end of their 1973 tour.

The Pritchard collection has previously been on display at the World Rugby Museum, at Twickenham Stadium.

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