Merv leads Ripley tributes

British & Irish Lions great Mervyn Davies has led the tributes to Andy Ripley following his death at 62 after a long battle against prostrate cancer. [more]

Merv leads Ripley tributes

British & Irish Lions great Mervyn Davies has led the tributes to Andy Ripley following his death at 62 after a long battle against prostrate cancer.

The two No 8s were arch-rivals in the Five Nations Championship for England and Wales and then rivals for the Test spot on the 1974 Lions tour to South Africa.

Davies had played a starring role for the Lions in New Zealand in 1971, when they won the series 2-1 with one game drawn, and was selected for South Africa along with other Test forwards Ian McLaughlan, Gordon Brown, Willie-John McBride and Fergus Slattery.

But as soon as Ripley was chosen for the tour Davies admitted he knew he was under pressure.

“Andy had scored a wonderful try for England against us in their win at Twickenham before the Lions squad was selected in 1974 and, in my eyes, he went on tour as the favourite for the Test spot. I knew I was under pressure and Andy made me a better player by pushing me so hard,” said Davies.

Google Ad Manager – In Article

“Our styles were as different as our backgrounds and I guess the fact the first Test against the Springboks was played in a rather wet Cape Town suited my game more. When I was given the nod to play at Newlands, Andy was the first player to come up and congratulate me – that was the measure of the man.

“I read recently that he was deeply disappointed at not getting into the Test side, but he never once revealed that while he was on tour. He just knuckled down and made me work even harder.

“He used to embarrass me in training with his sprinting prowess and he was a superb all-round athlete. He was a true athlete who played rugby.

“But above and beyond that he was a great man to tour with. Off the field he was a magnificent character who was always great company.

“I sat with him at a dinner about 18 months ago and he was as interesting on a wide range of topics as ever. He had obviously fought hard against the cancer and was refusing to give in to it.

“With his passing the game has lost one of its unique characters – a great player and a wonderful human being.”

The RFU President, John Owen, also joined in the tributes to one of England’s most charismatic players.

“There are players who grace their sport on the field of play and those rare few who also transcend their sport off the field. In English and world rugby, Andy was definitely in the latter category,” he said.

”On the field he was immense, an outstanding athlete who reached the highest levels of the game. Off the field he was even more impressive with what he gave of himself for others.

”To be in Andy's presence was to feel truly blessed. His unwavering appetite for life, unceasing enthusiasm for everything and everybody around him and his positive attitude never failed to leave you feeling better about the world around you.

”In his book Andy asked us all to dare to hope because not to do so was to miss the opportunity of life and he proved that every day.”

Previous story ‘House of Pain’ comes to end of road
Next story England win Down Under again
Download