The Curious Test Career of Jamie Salmon
James Lionel Broome Salmon may not be a name that leaps out at Kiwi rugby fans, but it should: he is the only player to play for both the All Blacks and England. He also has the interesting honour of being an Englishman who played for Wellington in their 1983 match against the British & Irish Lions.
Now I don’t remember a lot of details about rugby matches (or anything for that matter) from before 1989 but I have always remembered this curious fact about Salmon being relayed by the commentator – would it have been Keith Quinn? And since the Lions arrived last week it has been bugging me whether my recollection was right or not. So I asked Dr Google and sure enough, it was correct.
Things were different back in the pre-Rheineck 1980s. In the era of Carless Days and drunken Prime Ministers, before pay television and declared professionalism, 18 year-old Jamie Salmon decided to take a gap year and come out to New Zealand to play senior rugby for the Athletic club in the capital. He ended up staying five years, playing 64 times for Wellington in a backline that featured Bernie Fraser, Stu Wilson and Alan Hewson.
Once his stay here had lasted 3 years he became eligible to play for New Zealand. When the All Blacks went off to tour the Northern Hemisphere at the end of that watershed year of 1981, Jamie Salmon went with them as All Black #818. He played in all six matches of that tour, which included his three All Black test caps, making his full New Zealand debut against Romania in Bucharest and playing in the two tests against France.
Yes, remember the days when the All Blacks would tour Romania? Ah those crazy days of playing both your home and away matches under the gaze of a power-crazed protectionist dictator.
Anyway, at the end of the 1983 Salmon returned to England, where he played for Harlequins of London. In those days there wasn’t a rule that fixed a player to only ever representing one nation, so as an Englishman (born in Hong Kong) he was automatically qualified to pull on the red rose jumper, and in a suitable twist of fate he made his England Test debut against the All Blacks on Christchurch’s Lancaster Park in June 1985. He last played for England in New Zealand two years later at the 1987 Rugby World Cup. His international career’s final tally was twelve caps for England and three for New Zealand.