Rugby football isn’t as strict on kit-clashes as its association cousin, and sometimes one team changing to an alternative doesn’t even do all much to aid differentiation.
There have been a couple of notable instances of teams changing kit elements, however, and as the Six Nations Championship began last weekend, we will look at one of those for the latest in this series.
In the final round of the 1993 Five Nations (as it was before Italy’s addition), Wales lost 26-10 to champions France in Paris, a result which left them with the wooden spoon. Despite the 16-point loss, Wales team manager Rob Norster reckoned that some questionable penalty calls had gone against his side.
Having begun the 1994 competition with wins against Scotland and Ireland, a third victory over the French would leave Wales in a great position to win the championship, and so nothing would be left to chance. To that end, Wales donned the green socks which had been worn, along with green jerseys, against Japan the previous autumn – avoiding a clash with the French red socks, which Norster felt was at the root of the penalties going France’s way in Paris.
Kit manufacturers Cotton Traders had added white and green sleeve hoops to the kit for the first time that year, with a stylised Dragon on the right, and the green socks were able to tie in with the collar, cuffs and shorts trim. “It had cost us a couple of penalties in Paris the previous year and we wanted to ensure a greater distinction between the two teams,” Norster said.
Wales won 24-15 and though England would deny them the grand slam in the final game, they still won the championship. Of course, they may well have triumphed anyway, but 21-year-old number 8 Scott Quinnell’s first try for his country, with the game tied at 3-3, was proof of the foresight behind the switch to green socks.
Fittingly, they socks are mentioned at the start of the clip, before Quinnell wins possession from the lineout and charges through. Watch the replay from behind the dead-ball line and you’ll see Irish touch-judge Dave McHugh raise his flag – he saw red socks go over the line and momentarily assumed that they belonged to a Welsh player.