After a rather informal tournament in 1900, rugby football was accorded full Olympic status in 1908 but the entries fell well short of expectations. South Africa and New Zealand declined their invitations and Ireland, Scotland and Wales completely ignored theirs. This left just Australia, England, and France as the participating nations. England was originally scheduled to meet France with the winners taking on Australia but one week before the match France withdrew on the grounds that they could not raise a representative team and the two remaining teams, Australia and England, met in the only rugby match of the 1908 Games.
The Australians had no difficulty in selecting their team as their top players were already touring in England. By the time of the Olympic rugby match, Australia had played eight matches, winning seven of them. Conversely, the best Anglo-Welsh players were on tour in Australia and New Zealand and the Olympic match was scheduled to take place shortly after their return home. A letter was sent to the tourists asking if they would be prepared to accept an Olympic committment so soon after an arduous tour but the letter was never received. In the ensuing silence it was decided that Cornwall, who had won the English County Championship in March, should be Great Britain’s Olympic representatives. During the course of their tour the Australians had already beaten Cornwall (18-5) three weeks before the Games and they scored a more emphatic victory (32-3) in the Olympic match. The match was played on a dismal day, described by The Times as, “. . . a dark afternoon in a Scotch mist. The ground was slippery and the footballs in a perpetual state of greasiness.”
Notable among the Australians were Danny Carroll, who won a second gold medal representing the United States in 1920, and Syd Middleton, who rowed in the Australian eight at the 1912 Games. The Australian team continued to tour Great Britain and finished their tour with 26 wins and 5 losses, scoring 438 points, while conceding only 146. The other members of the touring Australian rugby team, who did not play at the Olympics, were William Dix, H. Daly, Edward Mandible, Esmend Parkinson, Warden Prentice, J. M. Stevenson, Frederick Wood, Dr. Herbert M. Moran (the captain, who had injured his shoulder the previous Saturday), E. McIntyre, Kenneth Gavin, Peter H. Burge, Albert P. Burge, Norman E. Row, Peter Flanagan, and C. A. Hammons. C. Murnin was also to be a touring member but had been taken ill in Naples on the trip to England and returned to Austalia. The captain, Dr. Moran, in his autobiography, Viewless Winds, noted that his greatest achievement as captain was to get the team home after five months away without a single player contracting venereal disease!