The Unique History that ties Harlequins and Wasps

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On Saturday Harlequins and Wasps will take to the field in Coventry for the ‘Christmas Cracker’ in round six of the Gallagher Premiership. What many spectators will be unaware of is the unique history between the clubs, that predates these heady days of commercialism by over 150 years.

Blood Brothers

Hampstead Football Club was formed in August 1866. They played in black and gold hoops and based themselves at the Freemason Arms, Hampstead, which is still in existence today.

In 1867, after an alleged disagreement¬† over a new club crest between Club Secretary William Titchener and William Alford, the club split. Alford’s defection would lead to the formation of Wasps FC, in association with the club colours and in vogue with the Victorian trend to name clubs after animals.

Titchener continued to lead Hampstead FC until its widening membership demanded a re-branding, since the majority of its members no longer came from Hampstead. At the annual general meeting it was agreed that the initials ‘HFC’ should be retained.

A dictionary was pulled out and the pages were flicked to the letter ‘H’. In 1870, Hampstead FC was renamed Harlequin FC. Black and gold hoops would not be appropriate for a Harlequin. Therefore a new kit design was created, and the current Harlequins club colours were born.

The first match between Harlequins and Wasps was in 1872. A historic rivalry was now created.

London Derby

For a long time, matches between Harlequins and Wasps were a North London derby, however both clubs have done a fair share of moving around since their Hampstead days. Harlequins have called some 18 separate venues their home, and have now settled permanently in Twickenham, West London.

Wasps have also done a fair share of relocating. They played at a number of rented grounds across North London before moving permanently to Sudbury, North West London where they were located between 1923-1996. They spent a spell at Loftus Road, Shepherd’s Bush, in the years 1996-2002, and a spell at Adams Park, High Wycombe, 2002-2014.

This move ended Harlequins versus Wasps as a London derby in the strict geographical sense, but kept the teams only around 30 miles apart. Now, Wasps reside in Coventry, after a remarkable permanent switch to the Ricoh Arena in 2014, definitely ending the geographical rivalry.

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The original London clubs

When the Courage Leagues were first instituted in the late nineteen-eighties, Wasps and Quins were the only two London representatives in the top division. Since then other London clubs have risen up the divisions.

London derbies have taken place between Saracens, London Irish, London Welsh and Harlequins in the last ten years. Wasps are now part of Midlands rivalries with Leicester and Northampton, which lack the history that a derby demands.

Non-London Derby

Despite the death of the classic London rugby derby there have still been some mighty tussles between the two clubs. This weekend’s match up is certainly one to watch.

Who could forget the controversy of September 2017? When famously Joe Marler choked James Haskell with his scrumhat and squirted water at him. Haskell was provoked into a furious retaliation which saw him sin binned and left him red faced. Harlequins went on to win the match 24-21.

In last season’s ‘Big Game 11‘ there was also a controversial incident regarding Dave Ward and Thomas Young.¬† Allegedly Ward spat and stamped on Young. Wasps were furious, but¬† Harlequins went on to win 20-13. There really is no love lost between the two clubs.

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Harlequins and Wasps: the rivalry continues

In their last match up, Wasps came out 27-25 victors. James Lang missed a kick to win it with the last play of the match as Harlequins failed to qualify for the Premiership play offs. A sweet victory for Wasps fans.

Hopefully this Saturday we will see similar intensity. With Harlequins sitting in 8th and Wasps in 10th, both sides will be looking to kick start their seasons. What better way to do it than against the old enemy?

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