Billy the Kick and Barefoot Bob – the story of two hardcore rugby legends

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Separated by half the globe, both were hardcore rugby lehends.

One became known as one of Wales’ great utility backs of the early post-war era, who held down a dirty, back-breaking job underground at the same time his tactical prowess on the pitch singled him out as being amongst the sport’s shining lights.

The other, from more than 11,500 miles away, made a name for himself as a similarly hard-as-nails fullback who could notoriously kick goal from the halfway mark in just his bare feet – something that would make even today’s toughest players wince.

Indeed, Treorchy -born Billy Cleaver, aka Billy the Kick, and Kiwi Robert Scott – otherwise known as Barefoot Bob – were even born in the same year as each other, namely 1921.

Both men would also eventually end up facing off against each other under the floodlights in three of the British Lions’ test matches against the All Blacks on their tour of New Zealand in 1950.   

And these once fierce rivals are to face off against each other again as vintage jerseys from each late player’s heyday are to go under the hammer this weekend.



Barefoot Bob who could kick goal from the halfway line without his boots on

Both lots are up for auction in Cardiff on Saturday, December 5 and are expected to fetch £1,000s in bids from lovers of sporting memorabilia.

Such is the pull of each man even today, with fans in the Southern Hemisphere still swearing there’s never been a better fullback than Scott.

Meanwhile, Cleaver – who, in addition to the Lions, won 14 caps for Wales at outside-half, centre and full-back between 1947 and 1950 – is lauded as one of the true master of the game.

He also played centre for the Barbarians and was fly-half for Cardiff.

A lover of art and fine wine, he brought a lot more to the game than the ability to hoof the ball suggested by his nickname, possessing as he did not only great defensive play but an enviable technical ability in attack; he was seamless and elegant in the way he’d move.

Barefoot Bob, who got his name from growing up without the luxury of shoes during the Great Depression, played 52 matches for New Zealand including 17 Tests from 1946 to 1954.      

Legendary rugby commentator Winston McCarthy once said of Scott, “There will never be anyone as great”, while even the fearsome Maori fullback Nepia admitted there was no other player to touch him.

He and Cleaver went very different paths before the two wound up at opposing ends at match time, however.

Serving in Italy at the end of WWII, Scott drove ammo trucks to the front lines, while Cleaver went to Cardiff University to embark on a degree in mining.   



Up for grabs: Billy Kick’s classic Wales jersey

Nevertheless, both ended up retiring from the sport to take on unlikely new careers, Scott finally bowing out in 1954 to run a menswear shop, while Cleaver, who was already manager of North Celynen Colliery in Monmouthshire by the time he won selection of the Lions at 28, went on to become Deputy Director of the South Wales Coalfield.

He passed away, aged 82, in 2003 while his Kiwi counterpart Scott died in 2012. He was 91.

And it’s Cleaver’s 1948 Wales shirt that’s now up for grabs, along with Scott’s seminal All Blacks top, worn during the early ’50s.

The latter, which is in immaculate condition, has been provided for sale by the family of legendary Irish international fly-half Jack Kyle who swapped jerseys with Scott, either during that British Lions tour on New Zealand in 1950 or at Ireland’s clash against the All Blacks in Dublin 1954.

Cleaver’s shirt has also been proved by Kyle’s family, the pair also having swapped tops in the late ’40s.    

Both items are expected to fetch thousands as each are highly desirable acquisitions to collectors of vintage sporting memorabilia, with Scott’s, in particular, estimated at between £12,000 and £18,000.


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Auctioneer Ben Rogers Jones of Rogers Jones Co auctioneers said they are “anticipating strong international bidding at serious levels” for the historic lots.

Although it remains to be seen if either will match the Cardiff-based auction house’s record-shattering sale in 2015, when NZ captain Dave Gallaher’s 110-year-old jersey went for a fortune.

Worn during the feted ‘Originals’ tour of Britain in 1905, the All Blacks throw-back was secured for a whopping winning bid of £180,000.

The auction takes place at Rogers Jones & Co Fine Art Auctioneers on Llandough Trading Estate, Penarth Road  tomorrow (Saturday, December 5) at 3pm.



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