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Former England and Lions back David Duckham dies aged 76

Former England and Lions back David Duckham dies aged 76

  • Winger and centre won 36 England caps between 1969 and 1976
  • Spectacular Barbarians display in 1973 will long be remembered

English rugby union has lost one of its most evocative names after the death of David Duckham at the age of 76. The blond-haired Duckham was among the most talented backs of his generation and will for ever be remembered for his spectacular running in the famous 1973 fixture between the Barbarians and New Zealand in Cardiff.

Duckham played 36 times for England and scored 10 tries and was also a key member of the 1971 British & Irish Lions squad who achieved a historic series win over the All Blacks. The only English member of the Barbarians back line to beat New Zealand 50 years ago this month, he died on Monday night at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

On the 1971 Lions tour Duckham contributed 11 tries in 16 games. In one of the midweek games against West Coast-Buller he scored six tries but it was the way he played that set him apart. In an era when England mostly struggled for consistency and results he was at his best when playing alongside the great Welsh backs of the 1970s.

Aside from Gareth Edwards’ dramatic early try, the 1973 Barbarians game was also notable for Duckham’s mazy, long-striding running. He even came to be christened “Dai” by Welsh supporters who regarded him as one of their own.

David Duckham in action for Coventry against London Scottish in 1974

Duckham spent his entire club career with Coventry, making his England debut against Ireland in 1969. He played both as a centre as a wing, forming a notable midfield alliance with his fellow Lion John Spencer. His ability to swerve and sidestep opponents set him apart at a time when English rugby was not known for its attacking freedom.

By the time his Test career ended in 1976 after he was injured against Scotland at Twickenham, he was England’s most capped three-quarter in history and their second all-time highest try-scorer behind Cyril Lowe.

His former club said it was “incredibly sad” to learn of the news and described him as “arguably the greatest ever Coventry player”. The club is planning to pay tribute to Duckham before Saturday’s match against Jersey.

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