|Place Of Birth||Swansea|
CLUBS: Loughor, Gowerton County School, Gowerton, Llanelli, Swansea, Cambridge Univ., London Welsh, Barbarians.
HONOURS: Wales (17 caps), British Isles to New Zealand 1924 (3 tests).
Rowe Harding DL was born on 10th September 1901 in Birchgrove, Swansea. His father, Albert was a colliery Manager and also the founder of Glais RFC.
Harding made his Swansea debut in 1920 season under the captaincy of Tom Parker. This was following playing at his home club of Loughor and briefly at Llanelli. Rowe Harding’s residency at Stradey Park was a brief one, the newspapers of the day reporting that for Llanelli “he flattered to deceive. The Loughor boy is a trier, but he is very young for first class football yet.” The West Wales club was to regret letting him go. He was one of two players released from Llanelli RFC and welcomed to Swansea RFC at that time, the other being Islwyn Evans, a centre three-quarter, who went on to score prolifically for the “All Whites”. Harding was whisked off on Swansea’s tour to Northampton and Cambridge. Although the St Helens club was well represented at international level, Swansea lost 10 of its 44 fixtures that season, winning 24. This inconsistency was to be a feature through the early 'twenties and was mirrored in the national side. The following season, Harding was joint top try scorer (15) and in 1922-23 was top try scorer again (10).
Rowe Harding was a winger of exceptional pace and ability. At Cambridge he won 4 Blues between 1924 and 1927, losing only in the 1924 match. By this time he had won 14 caps for Wales on the wing. Harding was a natural athlete and representing Swansea Cricket & Football Club he won the AAA 100 yards in 1922 and 1926 and the 220 yards in 1923.
Harding made his international debut for Wales in the defeat to England in 1923 and retained his position on the wing for the remaining fixtures against Scotland, Ireland and France. The only match won was the match with France at St Helens where he scored his first Welsh try at his club ground. The 1922-23 season saw Swansea still in the doldrums with only 15 wins and 19 losses in the domestic fixture list. This was to be a feature of Harding's career, where he played well himself but was not in successful sides at club or international level and had to work hard for scoring chances.
The following season (1923-24) Harding had the honour of representing Swansea and Wales in the combined England/Wales team that played Scotland/Ireland at Rugby School in the Centenary Match. Rowe Harding played for Wales in the win over France, where he captained the team and the lost match against Ireland. There was however, compensation for Harding as he was selected for the 1924 Lions tour to South Africa. Harding played in 14 matches on the tour including 3 tests against South Africa. He scored tries against Rhodesia, Transvaal and Western Province.
In 1924-25 Harding's form saw him selected for the Wales team that played the second All Blacks at St Helens. Unfortunately, he had little chance to shine, though he defended heroically. Wales lost 19 -0 and the New Zealanders had their revenge for the 1905 defeat to Wales. He was selected for the Welsh international against France which was won and against Ireland which was lost. Harding was at Cambridge and unavailable for Swansea's fixture with New Zealand. It was not to be a repeat of the close match of 1905 (lost 3 - 4) and the All Blacks won 39- 3 on their way to an Invincible tour. Rowe Harding was however, selected again for Wales against France (won) and Ireland (lost) in 1925.
The 1926 international season saw Harding gain three more caps and score a try as captain against Ireland in the win at St Helens. England were held to a draw in Cardiff with Harding again captain and France were beaten in a close match at Stade Colombes. The following season Harding maintained his position on the wing against England, Scotland, France and Ireland, scoring a try in the loss to England and two in the win over France. Unfortunately, this was the only Welsh win. Harding's last cap came in the match lost against England in 1928, again as captain of the Welsh team, his international career ending with only 6 wins, 1 draw and 10 losses. He had the misfortune to have the talent to play in an era when Welsh rugby lacked the clear identity and purpose of the pre-war years.
Rowe Harding captained Swansea's 1st XV in 1928-29 when player selection was more consistent, which was reflected in the 29 wins and just 10 losses (3 draws) for the season. He also played for the Barbarians.
In 1929, with his playing days receding, Harding penned a well-received book on Welsh rugby. "Rugby Reminiscences and Opinions" was a concise attempt to point out where Welsh play had been going wrong for a decade and showed an analytical mind at work. Harding served in the Home Guard in the Second World War and went on to become a County Court Judge and Circuit Court judge in the years following. He stood for Parliament for East Swansea in 1945 and again for Gower in 1950 and 1951.
Rowe Harding continued his association and support on the Committee of Swansea RFC and became Vice-President of the WRU from 1935-36, also becoming involved on many committees of institutions and charities in Wales. He was President of Glamorgan Cricket Club in 1970 and was appointed a deputy Lieutenant for Glamorgan.
Rowe Harding died on 10th February 1991 at his home in Gower, near Swansea, aged 89.
Click on a season for a match by match breakdown.
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