An Appreciation: Dickie Jeeps

I first met Dickie Jeeps in 1967 when I went up to Cambridge. I knew of him before then as a fantastic rugby player. [more]

An Appreciation: Dickie Jeeps

I first met Dickie Jeeps in 1967 when I went up to Cambridge. I knew of him before then as a fantastic rugby player.

By that point he had 24 caps as scrum-half for England in the days when you could only win four caps a year. He had also captained England 13 times and had won a then-record 13 caps for The British & Irish Lions.
For England, it was Jeeps and Richard Sharp. Two absolute legends of the game.
We were of different generations but he and I struck up a rapport immediately. Rugby is the sort of game that can do that.
Whether people played together, or had a player-coach relationship, or were international players from different era, there can be a special bond.
Dickie was an England selector when I made my debut in 1969 and I remember my first cap vividly.
We were sat in the changing rooms at Twickenham and he had this massive grin on his face because he knew that I had been selected.
That was his personality.
Dickie was also fond of a practical joke. He had an incredibly mischievous sense of humour and you need that sort of personality on Tour – it is one of the reasons he was so successful with the Lions. 

Willie John McBride was obviously exceptional, going on five Tours and winning 17 Test caps – the two played together in 1962 – but Dickie is not far behind in terms of the Lions pantheon.
Going back to the 1955 Tour to South Africa, he was 23 and hadn’t been capped by England. In typical Dickie fashion, he claimed the only reason he received the call-up was because of an invitational game he had played alongside Cliff Morgan in Cornwall.
Cliff must have liked him because despite Dickie arriving as third-choice scrum-half, the pair of them started all four Tests together against South Africa.
In the days before spin passing, he had a remarkably accurate dive-pass. He was tactically very astute and his partnership with Cliff was critical in the Lions drawing that Test series 2-2.
He went to New Zealand and Australia in 1959 with the reputation of being the finest footballer of his time and left with that enhanced.

When it comes to rugby, the Kiwis are notoriously hard to please, but Dickie – like Gareth Edwards in 1971 – was the finest of the Lions in their eyes. High praise indeed when you consider that the likes of Bev Risman, David Hewitt, Tony O'Reilly, Peter Jackson and Ken Scotland were also on that Tour.

He was tough, flexible, had a brilliant sense of the game, and  was precise in everything he did. For a small man, he was also remarkably strong.
With Cambridge RUFC, Northampton Saints, England and the Lions, his contribution to the game continued long after his playing days.
He worked on committees, as a selector and was also RFU President in 1976 to 1977 before becoming Sports Council Chairman and winning a CBE.
Among all that, he never ceased to be the same mischievous Dickie. His absence from rugby will be keenly felt.
Dickie was an immense character and will be very sadly missed.
His death came as a surprise to me, as it always does with friends, but I will remember him – as anyone who played underneath him would tell you – with a smile on his face.
John Spencer is Manager of the 2017 Tour to New Zealand. He played 14 times England, including four times as captain, and toured New Zealand with the 1971 British & Irish Lions

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