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Manchester Rugby Club to sell rare 148-year-old England rugby shirt at auction

The England shirt is nearly 150 years old and is expected to reach a five-figure sum.

A 148-year-old England rugby jersey believed to be the second oldest international shirt in existence is expected to sell for more than £10,000 at auction.

The white kit was worn during the world’s fourth ever international rugby match played 20-a-side between England and Scotland at The Oval in London on February 23, 1874.

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Research shows it was worn by Manchester forward Roger Walker during the fixture, which England won 4-3 as a result of a single drop goal.

The shirt - which comes with England’s famous red rose badge embroidered onto the chest - has been in possession of Manchester Rugby Club since it formed in 1860.

Originally founded as Manchester Football Club, it is one of the first rugby union clubs in the world.

They are now selling the jersey via Mullock’s Auctioneers, in Church Stretton Shropshire, in order to raise funds for the club.

An extremely rare England rugby international jersey Credit: Mullock's Auctioneers / SWNS

Despite having a few marks and tiny holes, experts say the shirt is in very good condition for its age and is a piece of “stunning, extremely early rugby memorabilia”.

Phil Atkinson, a rugby specialist at the auctioneers, said: “It is extremely rare to have a jersey like this in the intense world of rugby memorabilia.

“The only known older surviving England jersey, from the first ever international game in 1871, is in Twickenham’s World Rugby Museum.

“So this is a fantastic and possibly unique opportunity to own a piece of stunning rugby memorabilia

“At first, we thought the jersey was from the first international rugby game but when we compared it we realised it was from the fourth match in 1874.

“That match was won by England. The result was 4-3. England scored a drop goal - which was worth four points back then - while Scotland scored one try.

“People looked after their jerseys because it was a new thing to be playing international rugby then. Increasingly, it became a talking point.

“So many players put them away and kept them in a drawer wrapped in tissue after use, or gave it to a club.

“This is what happened in this case. It was given to Manchester Rugby Club and has been there for generations.

“Manchester have now put it to us for sale. Some clubs are looking to raise a bit of cash.

“We have got a Lions jersey up for sale from 1950 for around £2,000-£3,000 but this England jersey is potentially in a different league.

“It really is a jewel of a jersey. We are hoping for offers over £10,000 for it. We have had some interest already.”

The jersey has a deep pocket consistent with early rugby shirts and comes with a small collar and the original four buttons.

The red rose on the sewn-on badge has now faded to white, but dark green petals are still visible.

A small faded white capital M is also embroidered to the other side of chest from the badge.

Mr Atkinson added: “We don’t know what the M stands for. We think it may be the maker of the shirt or the initial of the embroiderer.

“New Zealand shirts from around 1905 had a letter on it too. That letter on that shirt was from the maker of the jersey.

“So it is quite possible it stands for the maker of this England jersey. Because there are not many shirts from that time, it is hard to reference with other shirts.”

Sportsman Roger Walker won five caps for England between 1874-80 and also played in the first ever Calcutta Cup fixture against Ireland.

He also played cricket for Lancashire twice, became the 13th President of the RFU between 1894-1896 and helped found Reading RFC.

The shirt is due to be auctioned online by Mullocks Auctioneers on Wednesday 27 April.