On this day: Twickenham Stadium hosts its first ever game

Known as one of the great sporting theatres, it was on this day 110 years ago Twickenham Stadium had somewhat more humble beginnings.

On Saturday 2 October 1909 it was not England who played the first match at their home ground but a local rivalry between Harlequins and Richmond.

Harlequins were given the first match as they invoked a 'gentleman's agreement' they had with the RFU before the stadium was even built, stating they could use the new ground once ready.

In front of a crowd of around 2,000 in tricky conditions after heavy rain over several days and with the grass overgrown, Quins won 14-0.


In the decades after its 1871 formation, the RFU hired different club grounds around England for staging international matches. This was common practice with the Football Association taking a similar approach before Wembley was opened in 1923.

When New Zealand and South Africa toured the British Isles in 1905 for the first time it gave the game a massive lift and the RFU decided to purchase a plot of land to build their own stadium.

RFU Treasurer William Cail found a 10-and-a-quarter acre market garden near the small market town of Twickenham and it was purchased for £5,500. Having secured the land the RFU approached the London and South Western Railway who agreed to build a train station for match days which helped persuade some of the RFU Committee on the location, as they had not been overly keen before.

The land where the stadium would be built was on allotments that was used to for growing fruit and vegetables, including cabbages, and so was given the nickname 'the Cabbage Patch.'

Three months after hosting its first ever game, on 15 January 1910 Twickenham staged its first international when England faced Wales in front of around 22,000 people.


As Twickenham hosted its first ever match in 1909, Harlequins were led out by captain Adrian Stoop, the same man who would lead England in their first match at the ground three months later.

The fly half was captain at Quins for eight years as well as club secretary between 1905 and 1938, and 30-year stint as president of the club as well as being the RFU secretary in 1932. He played his last game for the club in 1939 at the age of 56.

He earned 15 caps for his country but apart from his captaincy is perhaps best known for his role in playing with a designated scrum half and fly half, rather than two interchangeable half backs which was the norm at time.

Such was his influence of on Harlequins they named their stadium in his honour, which is why the ground was known as the Stoop Memorial Ground, but has since been renamed to Twickenham Stoop, but is informally referred to as 'The Stoop'.


Another man who appeared at both the first ever match at Twickenham as well as the first ever England international held at the ground was Ronald Poulton Palmer.

He played at centre or wing and was considered a unpredictable, mesmerising runner with ball in hand winning his first cap for England in 1909 even before he won his blue for Oxford University.

'Ronnie' won 17 caps for England between 1909 and 1914, scoring 28 points, as well as ending the period before World War I as England's captain, scoring four tries in France to help the national side to a second consecutive Grand Slam.

He was killed in Belgium on 5 May in 1915 and his last, possibly apocryphal, words were reputed to be "I shall never play at Twickenham again."

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