One time schoolteacher John Carleton was one of many of England's 1980 Grand Slam side to play for an unfashionable northern side, turning out for Orrell until well into his thirties. His international debut came on his 24th birthday in 1979 in a 10-9 defeat by the All Blacks at Twickenham, a game some argue England could have won if they had employed the same tactics used by the northern division against the tourists a week before which led to a 21-9 victory. John then enjoyed a highly successful Five Nations campaign in 1980, scoring a spectacular debut try in the corner against France after being fed by Steve Smith.
In the match against Scotland that decided the Grand Slam he then scored the first hat-trick by an England player since Herbert Jacob achieved the feat against France in 1924. The first try came about when Clive Woodward made a brilliant midfield run which totally confused the Scottish defence, before laying off a neat pass to the oncoming Carleton who scored with ease. Number two stemmed from an England scrum close to the Scottish line which gained several yards with a mighty push. Number Eight John Scott eventually released the ball to scrum-half Steve Smith, who in turn fed Carleton to cross the line unchallenged. The hat-trick was achieved in the second half after Paul Dodge gathered the ball in broken play and launched a speculative up and under which eluded everyone but John. Tony Neary chased after Carleton to offer support but it was not needed and the winger met with only half hearted Scottish resistance as he crossed the line.
John also played in three out of four tests for the British Lions that year but only tasted victory in the fourth game when the series had already slipped away. Now firmly established on England's wing, John played in all four matches of the Five Nations in each season between 1981 and 1984, adding up to a run of 20 consecutive appearances. One of his most memorable games was in a 17-7 defeat of Wales in 1982 when he scored two tries, one of which came about when he stepped in at scrum-half and then found no defender to stop him diving over. In 1983 he was probably the most dangerous back the Lions had in New Zealand, but was unable to find the try line and all three matches he played were lost. There was some consolation later in the year when England secured their first triumph over the All Blacks since 1973 in a 15-9 triumph at Twickenham. The 1984 season was John's last for England, and after missing the tour to South Africa due to business commitments, he made his last appearance in a 19-3 loss to Australia. Carleton played a total of 26 times for his country, scoring 7 tries. (Jon Collins)
John Carleton playing for Rugby England on 14th. February 1984. Photo G. Herringshaw. ©
Career Record: Played 26: Won 12, Drew 3, Lost 11
Test Points: 28
1979 v New Zealand (Twickenham) L 10-9
1980 v Ireland (Twickenham) W 24-9 (FN)
1980 v France (Paris) W 17-13 (FN)
1980 v Wales (Twickenham) W 9-8 (FN)
1980 v Scotland (Murrayfield) W 30-18 (FN)
1981 v Wales (Cardiff) L 21-19 (FN)
1981 v Scotland (Twickenham) W 23-17 (FN)
1981 v Ireland (Dublin) W 10-6 (FN)
1981 v France (Twickenham) L 16-12 (FN)
1981 v Argentina (Buenos Aries) D 19-19
1981 v Argentina (Buenos Aries) W 12-6
1982 v Australia (Twickenham) W 15-11
1982 v Scotland (Murrayfield) D 9-9 (FN)
1982 v Ireland (Twickenham) L 16-15 (FN)
1982 v France (Paris) W 27-15 (FN)
1982 v Wales (Twickenham) W 17-7 (FN)
1983 v France (Twickenham) L 19-15 (FN)
1983 v Wales (Cardiff) D 13-13 (FN)
1983 v Scotland (Twickenham) L 22-12 (FN)
1983 v Ireland (Dublin) L 25-15 (FN)
1983 v New Zealand (Twickenham) W 15-9
1984 v Scotland (Murrayfield) L 18-6 (FN)
1984 v Ireland (Twickenham) W 12-9 (FN)
1984 v France (Paris) L 32-18 (FN)
1984 v Wales (Twickenham) L 24-15 (FN)
1984 v Australia (Twickenham) L 19-3
John was a member of the 1980 Grand Slam team.
In the final match of the tournament he scored a
hat-trick of tries against Scotland, the first
English international to do so for 56 years.
Won 6 British Lions Caps, 3 in 1980 v South
Africa and 3 in 1983 v New Zealand.