Lions legend Duckham dies aged 76

The versatile back played a key role in the victorious Tour of New Zealand [more]

British & Irish Lions Squad 1971

David Duckham, a star of the only British & Irish Lions side to win a Test series in New Zealand, has died at the age of 76.

A versatile player comfortable across the backline, Duckham made his England debut at centre against Ireland in 1969 and made a strong enough impression to be named in the Lions squad for the Tour of Australia and New Zealand two years later.

He made 17 appearances on the Tour, scoring his first points in a red shirt in a 25-6 win over South Canterbury-Mid Canterbury-North Otago before seizing an opportunity against West Coast-Buller when his good friend John Spencer missed out through injury.

Duckham stepped in on the wing and ran in a remarkable six tries to stake his claim in style and while he ultimately did not feature in the first Test 10 days later, which the Lions won 9-3, he started the final three matches against New Zealand on the wing in a formidable backline.

Read more: Lions legend – David Duckham

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The Lions lost the second Test 22-12 as the All Blacks levelled the series but Duckham was at the heart of what proved to be a pivotal 13-3 victory in the third match of the series in Wellington.

The Lions converted that lead into a famous first – and so far, only – series victory in New Zealand as Duckham also started the final Test, which ended in an enthralling 14-14 draw.

David Duckham

Duckham concluded the Tour with a total of 11 tries and 44 points and though injury sadly denied him a place on the 1974 Tour of South Africa, his international career continued until 1976.

He finished with 36 points from as many England caps and regularly shone on Barbarians duty, scoring 19 tries in 20 matches as well as embarking on a famous counter-attacking run against the All Blacks in 1973 which has since entered rugby folklore.

Read more: My Lions hero – David Duckham on Barry John

That match was played in Cardiff and saw Duckham achieve the rare feat of becoming an English player adored by a Welsh crowd, who nicknamed him ‘Dai’.

Born in Coventry, Duckham represented his hometown club with distinction over the course of 12 years and 188 appearances.

The club today said in a statement: “Coventry Rugby is incredibly sad to learn of the news that David Duckham, ex Coventry, England and British and Irish Lions player, has died, aged 76.

“Donned as arguably the ‘greatest’ ever Coventry player, our thoughts go out to David’s family at this difficult time.

The club will demonstrate a minute’s silence prior to kick-off at this Saturday’s match against Jersey and will be looking to organise a celebration of life for David, subject to conversations with the family. Rest in peace, David.”

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