The History of Dorset & Wilts RFU

The history of rugby in Dorset and Wiltshire goes back to before 1934. At that time, while rugby union was being played by most independent schools, it was a game enjoyed in Dorset only by service teams at Bovington, Lulworth and Portland (where the Home Fleet spent much of the winter) and by three civilian teams; Weymouth, West Dorset (now Dorchester) and East Dorset (now Wimborne). Up in Wiltshire it was again garrison towns as well as Devizes, Trowbridge and Salisbury that mainly put out rugby teams.

Dorset played its first County match on 24th Oct. 1934 against Wiltshire but records show that over the next few seasons a number of Dorset players played for Somerset and for Hampshire in County Championship matches. In 1935 Dorset were offered £30 for expenses if they would play a match in Cornwall. Unfortunately the then Hon. Secretary ordered beer at practically every station between Dorchester and Redruth, resulting in a net deficit of £38 on the round trip.

In the 1935/36 season Dorset and Wiltshire combined as a team for one match, beating Hampshire by 9 points to 6.

During the spring of 1939 representatives from Wiltshire and Dorset agreed that the separate Unions should be wound up on 31 July and that the Dorset & Wilts. RFU should be constituted with effect from 1 August, 1939, because the RFU had promised to accept Dorset & Wilts into the County Championship as from the 1940/41 season. Regrettably the declaration of war that autumn intervened.

During the war years an invitation team operated on a number of occasion, including several pre-war internationals such as Robin Prescott (England), Hastie (Scotland) and the outstanding Australian cricketer, Keith Miller

By the Autumn of 1946 the Dorset Union and the Wiltshire Union had re-formed and the first meeting of the amalgamated Dorset & Wilts RFU took place in December 1946. In July 1947 the Dorset & Wilts. RFU was admitted to the County Championship by the RFU before being granted Constituent Body status in April 1949.

D & W against Cornwall in 1951 featuring John Proctor (with moustache centre front row) and Douggie Harrison (LHS in suit). It also has a number of players from Dorset and Wilts clubs plus Capt Peter Lillington (with moustache on RHS of back row) who played on the wing and became a famous referee, who just failed narrowly to make the international panel.

Dougie Harrison was the first Dorset & Wilts. Representative on the RFU Council and later rose to become President of the RFU – an honour bestowed on Dorset & Wilts. a second time for the 2011/12 season, when former County representative Willie Wildash was elected as President of the RFU – and little knew what a tumultuous time was to follow.

Nowadays, as the local governing body for rugby union in the two counties, the Dorset & Wilts. RFU has a leading role to play in the development of sustainable local clubs where young people can try the game in a safe environment, under the eye of suitably qualified coaches, form friendships to last a lifetime and learn to respect the values of a team sport where the referee is always right, while their parents are encouraged to become actively involved in administration, coaching or organisation and so have the opportunity to demonstrate their community leadership skills. From the players’ point of view, the Dorset & Wilts. RFU is active in promoting better facilities and can often help with the difficult process of securing grants and finance. At the same time, working closely with schools the Dorset & Wilts. RFU continues to coach and develop players themselves at County level, from the u14s age-group right up through the successful u20s side to the Senior XV, providing a constant stream of talent for the County and for the Region, to go forward to Premiership Academy and Club teams or even to representative England sides.

The Dorset & Wilts. Senior team won the County Shield Championship Final at Twickenham for 2 seasons in a row, defeating Leicestershire the first time round in 2010 then Surrey in 2011, and looks forward to competing for the title again each spring.