Richard Murray Tooth
- 383Wallaby Number
Dick Tooth, the premier utility back of his era, was subject to arguably the most outrageous selection blunder in Australian rugby history. A safe handler, strong runner, hard tackier, and accurate kicker, Tooth was the incumbent captain of Australia when he was a stunning omission for the Fifth Wallaby tour in 1957/58. Born in the south-eastern NSW town of Bombala, Tooth moved to Newcastle aged seven and attended Newcastle Boys’ High School where he played rugby league.
In 1948 he enrolled in Science at the University of Sydney and it was there that Tooth was introduced to the Union code. He switched to Medicine the following year and moved into second grade side which was coached by the astute Harold Masters, a 1922 All Black. That same season Tooth had the good fortune to be selected at inside centre for Australian Universities in each of the three ‘Tests’ against New Zealand Universities. In 1950, Tooth made his senior representative debut for New South Wales against the British Lions and the following year attained national honours when selected for the opening Test against New Zealand in Sydney. Unfortunately the next two international seasons were lost, firstly due to Tooth’s fourth-year medical examinations and secondly a twisted knee that ultimately cost him a spot on the 1953 tour to South Africa.
Finally, in 1955, Tooth went away on what was his only Wallaby tour, to New Zealand, and in an iron man-like performance played in 12 of the 13 matches. Two seasons later Tooth was named as the 41st Wallaby Test captain, for the two Test home series against New Zealand, before his absurd omission from the Fifth Wallabies saw him move to Britain in order to further his medical career. Tooth returned to Australia some years later and and was a successful coach at the University of Sydney. Dick Tooth played 10 Tests in a seven-year international career.
Tooth made his Test debut at fly half in partnership with Cyril Burke for the 1st Test, 0-8 loss to New Zealand at the S.C.G. Tooth and Burke retained their places for the final two matches of that series.
Tooth was the starting fullback in both home Tests against Fiji.
He played in all three away internationals on the tour of New Zealand. The first at fullback, the second at inside centre alongside Jim Phipps and the third at fly half outside Burke.
In his final season of Test rugby Tooth and Brian Cox were partnered in the halves for both home losses to New Zealand.