Main content

The Rugby Codebreakers

Carolyn Hitt investigates why so many men gave up their dreams of playing rugby union for Wales, by committing an act that was considered tantamount to treason – switching codes to play rugby league.

Broadcaster and journalist Carolyn Hitt investigates why so many men gave up their dreams of playing rugby union for Wales, to seek fame and fortune among the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire by committing an act that was considered tantamount to treason – switching codes to play rugby league. Her journey explores the impact of class, race and economic change on the game at the heart of Welsh identity.

During rugby union’s amateur era (1895-1995), more than 150 full Welsh union internationals and hundreds of uncapped union players did the unthinkable and ran the risk of being both ostracised and vilified by their fellow countrymen. They may have headed north with a heavy heart but once they had switched codes, many went on to become huge success stories across the north of England; stories that have remained largely untold in Wales.

Carolyn hears open and honest reflections from former players on both sides of the border, interviewing Welsh rugby legends Gareth Edwards and Jonathan Davies in Wales, and heading north to meet the players who didn’t come home. They reveal their life-changing experiences as rugby codebreakers and Carolyn uncovers the hidden history of the players who were forced to turn their back on Wales because of the colour of their skin.

The Rugby Codebreakers is the story of men who were deemed pariahs and outcasts in their own country but became heroes and legends to the working men and women of the north of England – and whose achievements should now be recognised at home

25 days left to watch

59 minutes

Last on

Sunday 23:50

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:21

    The Skatalites

    Guns Of Navarone

  • 00:44

    The Specials

    Ghost Town

  • 00:46

    The Chameleons

    Swamp Thing

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Carolyn Hitt
Director Tariq Ali
Producer Alan Golding
Editor Tony Mabey

Broadcasts

  • Sun 11 Mar 2018 19:00
  • Sat 18 Aug 2018 23:45
  • Thu 23 Aug 2018 23:15
  • Wed 12 Sep 2018 08:00
  • Sun 17 May 2020 22:30
  • Sat 3 Oct 2020 19:00
  • Sunday 23:50

Featured in...