As IRFU president in 1968/69 and a chief dignitary at the Five Nations in Cardiff, Chris Crowley was seated beside Prince Charles, now HM King Charles III, at the fixture against Wales.
It was at a time when Cardiff Arms Park’s new east stand was still in its construction stage. The Irish team was on a high, brimming with confidence. Having played seven internationals in succession without being beaten – six wins and one draw, Ireland were favourites in March 1969. Only Wales stood between Ireland and the Triple Crown.
Arriving at the Seabank Hotel Portcawl, the Irish party headquarters, it was discovered the Irish captain, before leaving Cork, had received a strange telephone message from a London-based rugby journalist, that apparently the Welsh team had worked out some devious plan, not entirely within the Laws of the Game, to cut the Irish party down to size.
Tom Kiernan did not give much credence to it, but Chris believed a new tension seemed to developing in the entire Irish party, while there was an increased determination to win this match among the players.
The two teams had togged out in temporary dressing rooms, and the Welsh Rugby Union’s arrangements required that the Prince, escorted by the two Union presidents, Chris Crowley and Ivor Jones, would walk across from the east side to the centre of the pitch where the two teams were lined up in the usual way.
Chris recalls hearing a lot of booing all around the ground as they walked out – and jokingly whispered to Jones, was it him [Jones] or Chris they were booing – what was it about? Jones whispered back “fiercely”. “Shut your bloody mouth Chris. He’ll hear you [meaning the prince].”
He recalls another odd occurrence as Prince Charles walked along the two lines shaking hands with the players, one of whom was the Welsh sub hooker Norman Gale. Gale stood with both hands deep in his pockets.
“As the prince came to him, he (Gale) slowly and apparently reluctantly dragged one hand out his pocket and half held it out to be shaken.
“Then I was intrigued to hear the Prince say: ‘Oh, you’re not playing, you’re just a reserve.’
“I thought Gale lost out in the little demonstration of bad manners.”