- 140Wallaby Number
In 1913 Eric Francis was Senior Prefect at the Ipswich Grammar School, where he excelled at cricket and rugby. One year later he was playing rugby for Queensland and Australia and the following year he was in the Army. Such were the times. Eric was the youngest of three gifted schoolboy athletes at the school. Eldest brother Trevor represented Australia in athletics in 1911 against New Zealand within a month of leaving school. At the national trials, he won the 440 yards in the State record time of 50.1 seconds. Meanwhile Eric left school at 19-years-of-age and joined his elder brother Stan in the newly-formed Queensland University rugby team in 1914. In club football, Eric played fullback while Stan was at centre.
Eric Francis was of medium height, well built, with a fair turn of speed and a strong kicking game. After missing selection for the opening match against New South Wales in Brisbane, Francis played fullback for Brisbane in the midweek match against New South Wales and did well enough to be chosen at centre to replace the injured Queensland captain, Jimmy Flynn, for the return interstate match. Unfortunately, the game was played in pouring rain with the visitors winning by 13-0. However, Francis was taken to Sydney with the Queensland team and figured in both interstate matches - but on the wing and it was in this position that he was chosen for Australia in the first Test against the touring All Blacks. Played in heavy weather, the match proved a revelation as the gallant Wallabies held the All Blacks to a 5-0 result after a scoreless first half.
When the All Blacks toured the northern State, Francis was chosen at fullback and his brother Stan made his debut for Queensland on the wing. The home side was soundly defeated 26-5 but Stan retained his position for the return encounter which Queensland also lost by 19-0. Eric Francis did not play in this match but was retained for the second Test to be played at the Brisbane Cricket Ground. Australia’s strong performance in the first Test encouraged Australia’s selectors to keep the side intact. However, the unavailability of the Sydney forwards Harold George, Bill Watson and Fred Thompson led to three local forwards replacing them. The result was a crushing 17-0 defeat. With war declared, Australia’s team for the third Test was disrupted by the international situation and Francis lost his place in a reshuffled backline. In 1915 Queensland continued playing rugby and Francis turned out for University at centre beside brother Stan.
Eric was chosen in a powerful South Queensland team for a tour of Central Queensland but with the war intensifying, he enlisted in the 15th Infantry Battalion on 31 July 1915 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant. On 28 March 1916, he embarked from Brisbane on HMAT Commonwealth for overseas service. He was not to return to Australia until mid July-1919 when the AIF tour had ended. There was no time to gain selection in the interstate series that followed in August 1919 and, clearly, the war had ended his very promising rugby career. However, Francis continued to play cricket and was named 12th man for Queensland in a post-war match. Eric Francis had a long life and he was honoured as Queensland’s oldest living international by the QRU in 1982 during Queensland’s centenary year when Eric was 88 years of age and Stan was 90. Eric died shortly after. He was Ipswich Grammar’s first international rugby representative.