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Germany's all-time leading scorer retires and calls for franchise team

By Jon Newcombe
MARSEILLE, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 23: Raynor Parkinson of Germany lines up a kick at goal during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Repechage match between Kenya and Germany at Stade Delort on November 23, 2018 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Raynor Parkinson, Germany’s all-time leading scorer, has retired from international rugby with a record that is unlikely to be broken any time soon.

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The 35-year-old took his final total for the Schwarze Adler (Black Eagles) to 337 points from 43 caps after kicking a second-half conversion against Georgia in round one of the 2024 Rugby Europe Men’s Championship.

It leaves him well over 200 points ahead of the also-retired Jacobus Otto in second place. And with his successor in the No10 jersey, Eduardo Stella, barely into three figures and 27 years of age, Parkinson’s record should be safe for at least another generation.

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“You don’t really do it for the accolades but it is always nice to have a record in your back pocket and to have contributed in some way,” said Parkinson, who was given the honour of leading the team out for his swansong appearance in Dessau just over 12 years after his Test career began with a victory over the Netherlands in Hanover.

“Playing for the national team meant the world to me but I don’t think I have it in me anymore. The body doesn’t quite recover as quickly as it used to and also, the time constraints of juggling work, club rugby, family… it is all becoming a bit too much, so I needed to take something off my plate and unfortunately I just couldn’t commit to the time that the national team required.”

Born in South Africa, Parkinson qualified for Germany through his grandmother who hails from the northern German city of Bielefeld. A product of the Sharks and Lions academy, he played professionally at the University of Johannesburg where he competed with Springbok Elton Jantjies for the No10 jersey before trying his luck overseas.

An unhappy spell in England with Old Elthamians led to Parkinson taking up an offer from a friend to play in the Netherlands, and that set him on the path to becoming a German rugby legend.

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“I was playing for a Dutch team in the North Sea Cup and the German team we were playing against was coached by the then-Germany head coach Kobus Potgieter,” he explained.

“He asked me if I had German ancestry and when I told him yes, he made me an offer to join HRK (Heidelberger RK). That was in 2011, I’d never set foot in Germany before.”

Parkinson won five Bundesliga titles with HRK before moving to Frankfurt 1880 where he has won three in a row as player-coach. Despite his exploits in club rugby and for the national team, most Germans will be unaware of his sporting prowess.

Making any inroads into the consciousness of a country dominated by football and handball will take some doing, especially as Germany’s best chance of making a breakthrough slipped through their hands a few years ago.

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Under former England and Ireland defence coach Mike Ford, Germany were effectively one win away from qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2019. Having beaten Romania and Portugal in the build-up, Germany went to the final repechage tournament in Marseille in November 2018 in good shape.

Wins over Hong Kong China and Kenya were achieved but they lost out to Canada (29-10) in the race for the final ticket to Japan. Afterwards, funds were pulled from the 15s programme and many of Parkinson’s teammates walked away never to be seen again.

Parkinson stayed on but admits that they have never come close to reaching those heights again. “That was probably the pinnacle of German rugby,” said Parkinson, who works as a PA to Dr Ulrich Byszio, the president of Frankfurt 1880 Rugby Club, and is settled for life in Germany.

“The Canada one was the one that sunk us in the end. I think there were only three points in at half-time. For the guys that had committed a lot of their time and sacrificed a lot to be part of 15s, to see it go from the position it was in to going bust, it was especially heartbreaking to see.”

Having seen the positive effect it has had on the Georgian and Portugal national teams, Parkinson would like to see a German franchise team competing in Rugby Europe’s Super Cup. “I have had those conversations with a few people about how we could possibly waken that sleeping giant [German rugby],” he said.

“Having a franchise team, where the best players are pooled into one team and exposed to a consistently good level of rugby and then fed into the national team, has worked well for the Portuguese and with the Georgians.”

Germany began this year’s Rugby Europe Championship with defeats to Georgia and Spain but were much more competitive than the previous year in both fixtures.

The latter match was broadcast live on RugbyPass TV, and this weekend’s offering will also feature the Spanish as they take on the Georgians in Tbilisi on Saturday. Both teams are unbeaten and the winner will top Pool A. The top spot in Pool B, meanwhile, will be decided on the same day in Bucharest as Romania take on Portugal.

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Comments

2 Comments
G
Gio 95 days ago

Shame, Germany truly is a sleeping gigant and can play big, union 15 mens rugby. They have everything to achive that, all one need. But, shame, just shame..

S
Sharon 132 days ago

Interesting piece. Didn’t one of the German teams qualify for the Challenge Cup a few years back, but were banned from taking part because their owner also owned one of the Top 14 sides?

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