Scotland to Chile: the spread of Sevens

By tournament:

1945 Country Club Sevens [9 September]

The list may be subject to change if more rugby union sevens tournaments are discovered.

History of rugby union in Chile

Rugby union was brought to Chile in the late 19th century; with notable bases in Santiago and Valparaíso. These two cities had a large Scottish expatriate base which helped grow not only rugby union but association football in the county.


Initially rugby union in Chile was largely an expatriate game and a base developed around three expatriate schools in the country. (These were:- the Mackay School of Valparaíso; the Craighouse School of Santiago; and the Grange School of Santiago. Their rugby union Former Pupils sides were formed later timeously with the impact of the Campbell brothers (discussed below). The Old Grangonian Club was founded in 1938; the Old Mackayans founded in 1952; and Craighouse Old Boys in 1972.)

The earliest of these schools was The Mackay School founded in 1857. Founded by a Glasgow teacher Peter Mackay, later aided by George Sutherland of Edinburgh, this school provided education for the children of many Scottish workers in the city of Valparaíso.

Sports clubs

Early rugby union sides in Chile were derived from 4 sports clubs. These sports clubs were more notable for association football and some later dropped the other sports. The earliest of these four clubs, Badminton, was from Valparaíso.

The Badminton Club of Valparaíso was founded in 1898. It played many sports including rugby union, but more notably football. Its football team packed with Scots first played a similar expatriate side Victoria Rangers of Valparaiso.

The Green Cross club was founded in 1915 in Santiago. It played many sports including rugby union, but again more notably football. The football club suffered an unfortunate plane crash in 1961 in the Andes. The side is now defunct; it moved out of Santiago to Temuco to merge with Deportes Temuco; and the football side now bears the Deportes Temuco name.

The Prince of Wales Country Club was founded in 1925. Originally based in Tobalala, it moved to Santiago. The club played many sports including rugby union. The club won the inaugural Chilean rugby championship in 1948. This rugby club was notable for the Campbell brothers. The PWCC rugby players take to the pitch to the sounds of the Santiago Metropolitan Pipe Band: bagpipes, drums and traditional Scottish dance tunes.

Stade Francais began in 1929. Two clubs the French Lawn Tennis club (founded in 1917) and Sport Francais merged that year to found the club. It initially focussed on tennis, with a rugby union club the following year in 1930.

Valparaíso and the Argentine tour

When the Argentina team first went abroad in 1936 it was first to Chile and the city of Valparaíso. The 4 Sports Clubs mentioned above still had rugby union sides at this time; and Valparaíso, the historic base of rugby union in Chile, would provide the highest attendance of the Argentine tour.

The Chile national team selected on 20 September 1936 to play them was loaded with Scottish surnames:- Watson, Gordon, Kinnear, Cooper, Wylie and McIntosh.

Chileans in those years suffered from a lack of competition, which was generally reflected on the pitch. There were only 4 rugby clubs in Chile, namely: Badminton de Valparaíso and three clubs from Santiago: the Prince of Wales Country Club, Stade Français and Green Cross. The main leaders of the Chilean Rugby Union (today called the Chilean Rugby Federation) were David Blair (President) and JG Hopkins (Secretary, treasurer, captain of the national team and one of the best players on the trans-Andean team).

The Argentine tour lasted 3 matches. Argentina won all the matches handsomely. The first and last matches [against the Chile national side] were played in Valparaíso at the Playa Ancha stadium, with the middle match [against the Prince of Wales Country Club] played in Santiago at the Stade Francais stadium.

The Campbell Brothers

Not just in Valparaíso, but the Chilean capital Santiago also had a vibrant Scottish expatriate community; and one such Campbell family in Santiago provided stars of, first, association football and then, rugby union in the country.

Colin Campbell (20 February 1883 – 23 May 1972) played association football for both Argentina (1 cap in 1907) and Chile (4 caps in 1910).

Colin’s sons Donald Campbell (9 July 1919 – 12 September 1944) and Ian Campbell (born 15 May 1928) were born in Chile. They became stars of rugby union in the country. Ian began playing for his school St. Peters before moving on to play for Badminton of Valparaíso, before moving to Santiago. Both brothers played for the Prince of Wales Country Club and the Chile national side. The two brothers:- Donald, just before the Second World War; and Ian, after that war; helped cement rugby union in Chile. Ian Campbell even created a Chilean rugby union dynasty with his grandson Santiago Fuenzalida playing for Chile U20s. The Campbell brothers were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame as the fathers of modern rugby union in Chile.

From The Times:

Two of the most celebrated figures in Chile’s oval ball annals are Donald and Ian Campbell, brothers of Scots descent who were born in Santiago and excelled in midfield for the land of their birth, to the extent that both were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2012. Their father, Colin Campbell, was a Scottish-born emigrant who played football for Chile at the 1910 South American Championship.

Donald sadly perished while in service as an RAF pilot in Germany in 1944, but Ian is still going strong at 94 and is widely regarded as the father of Chilean rugby, having made his debut in their first post-war international and captained the side at the inaugural South American Championship in 1951.

And so, the appearance of a Scotland A team at the Estadio Santa-Laura Universidad SEK this weekend is at once representative of the breaking of new ground and a nod to history.

“The Campbells are the foundation stone on which we have built,” Edmundo Olfos, the former Chile captain who is now head coach of Chile sevens and a lineout/breakdown specialist with the 15-a-side team, told The Times. “We are a very young country in rugby but we have some history behind us and we need to do more with it.”

The late Donald Campbell and his brother Ian Campbell were inducted at into the IRB Hall of Fame in May 2012. Ian Campbell was present at the induction and Donald was represented by his son, Colin.

Ian Campbell, born 15 May 1928 in Santiago, was fly half, centre and captain of both the Santiago “Prince of Wales” Club and the Chile National team. He started playing rugby towards the end of the Secord World War at Saint Peter’s School in Valparaiso, following in the footsteps of older brother Donald, who also represented both sides with distinction.

Ian and Donald were of Scottish descent, the sons of Colin Campbell, businessman and amateur soccer player, who represented Chile in the 1910 Soccer South American Championship.

Donald Campbell made his debut against Argentina in Buenos-Aires in 1938 as  a fast and powerfully built centre. The match was Chile’s third international and he played once more for his country before volunteering to join the Royal Air Force as the Second World War took hold. Donald died in action in 1943, while his teenage brother Ian was cutting his teeth in the intensely competitive Santiago rugby scene.

By the end of the war the young Ian Campbell had established himself as an influential midfield playmaker and in 1948 he was selected to play for his country against Uruguay in what historically is regarded as the first match between the two South American neighbours and arch-rivals.

The match, played at the “Gimnasia & Esgrima” club at the Jorge Newbery rugby ground, was a curtain-raiser to the main attraction, the ‘test match’ between the visiting Oxford & Cambridge side and Argentina. It was a baptism of fire for the 20-year old, who never lost to Uruguay during his 15 year stint with the national team.

Second only to the Pumas 

In 1951 Campbell led Chile to a well-deserved second place in the first ever South American Championship at the very same “Gimnasia & Esgrima” rugby ground in Buenos Aires and Chile’s pluck and enterprise against hosts Argentina earned them fixtures against overseas visitors.

A year later Campbell played against the Irish captained by DJ O’Brien and in 1954 he led Chile against Paul Labadie’s French tourists. In 1956 Chile entertained Oxbridge in Santiago and then Campbell again led them to the runners-up spot in the 1958 South American Championship. It was a period of Chilean rugby that yielded regular victories over Uruguay and offered a stern test to the more heralded Argentinians.

In the third South American Championship in 1961, Campbell’s last year with the National team, Chile again finished runners-up to Argentina, losing 11-3 in a match some observers felt Chile could and should have won. Uncharacteristically, Campbell missed five penalties, which as he acknowledged, made the difference in the final. At the time, he was described as the most skilful player in South America and a brilliant leader of men.

Some felt Campbell’s international retirement was premature but he did carry on playing week-in-week-out for the “Prince of Wales CC” club he held so dear. He eventually retired in the mid-1970s and tried his hand at coaching but, to his own admission, it was playing the game that kept him going. He would describe himself as a compulsive rugby player so he carried on playing, well into his 50s and 60s, supported by his musician wife Betty. Their marriage produced six children, five daughters and one son and fifteen grandchildren, three of whom play rugby: Santiago Fuenzalida, Joaquin Rodriguez and the youngest Cristobal Fontecilla. Santiago Fuenzalida, the son of their second daughter Laraine, represented Chile in the recently concluded Junior World Rugby Trophy in Santiago.

Ian, who was eight years Donald’s junior, started playing senior rugby at 17 and played for Prince of Wales for nearly 30 years. Also a centre, he made his international debut at 20 in what was Chile’s first post-Second World War international, which was also its first ever clash with Uruguay, in 1948.

He was made captain of Chile at the inaugural South American Championship in 1951 and retired 10 years later, after 14 years of Test rugby. During the 1950s he was acknowledged by both team-mates and opponents alike as perhaps the most skilful player in South America and an outstanding leader of men.

Widely regarded as the father of modern Chilean rugby, Ian appeared in every international match the country played between 1948 and 1961. During that time, he played with distinction against some of the leading teams of the era, including the touring Irish in 1952, the French in 1954 and 1960 and Junior South Africans in 1959.

One of Ian’s grandsons, Santiago Fuenzalida, played for Chile Under 20 in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2008 in Santiago but was tragically killed in a car crash later that year.

On his induction and that of his late brother, Ian Campbell said: “This is a huge honour for me and I couldn’t be more pleased at the fact that Donald has been included in this induction as well. He was my sporting hero. So much so that as a young boy all I wanted was to be able someday to play rugby, cricket or hockey (at all of which he excelled) with him when I grew up.”

Ian Campbell’s roll of honour:

Place of Birth: Valparaíso, Chile
Rugby Beginnings: Saint Peter’s School, Villa Alemana
Clubs: Badminton Sports Club; Prince of Wales Country Club (PWCC)
Foot: Ambidextrous
National Titles: 13, all with PWCC (1948, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1967, 1968, 1971)
First Division Debut: 1945 (15 years)
Retired: 1962 (international selection); 1971 (club)
Debut Chile XV: September 5, 1948
Chile 21-3 Uruguay, in Buenos Aires (first victory of the Cóndores against the Teros)
Caps : 13
Total points: 43
Tries: 9
Conversions: 2
Penalties: 4
Palmarés Chile: South American runner-up 1951, 1958 and 1961


It was the Prince of Wales Country Club that first organised the first Sevens tournament in Chile on 9 September.


• UC

• Stade Francais

• Grange School


• University of Chile

• Coyotes

• Old Grangonians

The Prince of Wales Country Club won the tournament defeating University of Chile 16-0 in the final.

National team

The Chile Sevens national side were first invited to a Sevens tournament in Paraná, Entre Ríos in Argentina in 1987.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s