Born 14 Nov 1878, Lowerstoft, England
Died 19 Nov 1933, Manchester, England
1st player to be made Captain by the Royal Navy Rugby Union and accordingly given cap number 1.
Played against the Army in 1907
Inter Service Record
Played 1 Won 1 Drew 0 Lost 0
Inter Service Titles n/a
1907 Royal Navy 15 Army 14
RN Engineering College Keyham
Engineering Commander Ernest WIlliam Roberts Royal Navy played all of his six England internationals before he won his first and only Navy cap in 1907 as captain on the first occasion that a Navy Team played the Army under the auspices of the newly formed Royal Navy Rugby Union. The year 1907 remains unique in Service rugby history as it is the only year when the Army and the Royal Navy played each other twice. Roberts also went on to become an England Selector and is credited with having significant influence over the Navy and England rugby career of William Luddington.
Though often based away he obviously found time to keep in touch with his East Anglian roots and is credited by Norwich Rugby Club as their only senior England cap.
Perhaps Roberts’ greatest claim to fame occurred on 17th October 1906, the year the Navy Rugby Union was formed. 1906 also saw the inaugural tour of a South African ‘test’ team and it was during this tour that they earned their “Springbok’ nickname. The tour served to establish South African rugby on the world map with successes over Wales and Ireland, a 3 – 3 draw with England and a defeat to Scotland. Roberts played against them in the colours of Devon. It was the seventh match of the tour and Roberts became the first player to score a try against them. The game nearly didn’t take place due to an early example of racial discrimination against Devon playing the first black English international, James Peters. Though the game went ahead the South Africans later had Peters removed from the 1906 England team.
Ernest Roberts was made a Life Member of the Royal Navy Rugby Union in 1930. He was only the Union’s second Life Member at the time of the award.