Stephen Leslie Keith James
- 661Wallaby Number
Stephen James was an attacking fly half, at his best when he took the ball to the line, who shot to prominence in the mid-1980s largely due to his performances for the very successful Sydney representative team. Unfortunately James’ opportunities to represent at national level were limited due to the presence of two great number tens - Mark Ella and Michael Lynagh.
Born in Sydney and educated at Drummoyne Boys' High School, James’ first big break came in 1984 when Ella retired at just 25 years of age however Lynagh quickly stepped into that breach. James’ second opportunity, when selected for the 1986 Wallaby tour to New Zealand, was one he grabbed with both hands. While he did not play in the Tests his consistently strong performances in the uncapped matches set the path for him to be included in the Australian squad for the 1987 Rugby World Cup.
A week before the Cup began, James made his Test debut against South Korea in Brisbane. He played another four Tests that season, including a start at No.10 against the inaugural world champion All Blacks. Clearly national coach Alan Jones thought very highly of James when he shifted Lynagh to No.12 and installed James at fly half for both Tests of the away series to Argentina.
Stephen James played six Tests for Australia in a two-year international career.
James won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Nick Farr-Jones at halfback and then switched with Brian Smith to fly half in the 65-18 defeat of South Korea in Brisbane. He scored his first Test try to become the 63rd Wallaby to score a try on debut. James was selected to his first Rugby World Cup but only picked up a single cap, from the bench against England in Sydney. He made his first run-on XV debut at No.10 in the 16-30 loss to New Zealand in Sydney. James was selected at fly half for both Tests on the end-of-season to Argentina.
James won his final cap as a replacement in the 2nd Test, 19-19 draw with New Zealand in Brisbane.