Loughborough University, and the pre-1966 colleges that preceded it, has long been synonymous with sporting excellence. For many decades, countless international sport stars have begun their adult life in this institution of ours in a small market town in Leicestershire.
Rugby union has one of the closest historical associations with Loughborough. LSRFC has been responsible for churning out Grand Slam winners, British Lions and even a World Cup winner – whose coach, Clive Woodward, was also educated at Loughborough. So, if we delve through the archives, who would make a Loughborough University All-Time Best XV? I thought I would give it a go.
15) Craig Joiner (25 caps for Scotland 1994-2000)
A rare lack in the Loughborough alumni’s positional strength at fullback justifies moving Scottish winger Craig Joiner into the fifteen shirt. The highlight of Joiner’s six-year career was the role he played in the 1995 World Cup campaign.
14) Gerald Davies (46 caps for Wales 1966-78, 5 Lions caps 1968 & 1971)
Legend Gerald Davies was a key member of the famous Welsh side of the 70s, and a member of the exclusive group of players with three Grand Slams under their belts. Three of his 23 international tries came in the Lions’ 1971 series win in New Zealand.
13) John Dawes (22 caps for Wales 1964-71, 4 Lions caps 1971)
Dawes played alongside Davies for the majority of his career for both Wales and the Lions, and remains the only captain to lead the Lions to a series victory against the All Blacks. After retiring in 1971, he returned soon afterwards to coach Wales to two Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978.
12) Jeff Butterfield (28 caps for England 1953-59, 4 Lions caps 1955)
If the 1970s belonged to Wales, the 50s undoubtedly belonged to England. Butterfield helped his country to an impressive five Championship titles. He toured South Africa with the Lions in 1955 and scored three tries.
11) Ken Jones (44 caps for Wales 1947-57, 3 Lions caps 1950)
Jones made his debut against England in the first post-war Five Nations in 1946; a tournament that Wales and England went on to share. Ten years and 19 international tries later, he bowed out with an additional five Championship medals and three Lions caps to his name.
10) Bev Risman (8 caps for England 1959-61, 4 Lions caps 1959)
The dual-code international from Salford has the odd distinction of winning a third of his caps playing for the Lions. The talented fly-half ended his fledgling union career in 1961 to join rugby league club Leigh.
9) Henry Pyrgos (6 caps for Scotland 2012-)
Surprisingly, the Loughborough conveyer belt has failed to produce many notable scrum-halves, paving the way for young Pyrgos to sneak in. He made his first international appearance against New Zealand last year, and there is likely to be a lot more to come from the Glasgow Warrior.
1) John Robins (11 caps for Wales 1950-53, 5 Lions caps 1950)
The Cardiff-born prop had a short but successful career, winning a 1950 Grand Slam with Wales and achieving a series win in Australia with the Lions. He also has an enigmatic record for a tight forward of scoring all of his international points through penalties and conversions.
2) Eric Evans (30 caps for England 1948-58)
After playing a one off test at prop against Australia in 1948, Evans was recalled two years later as a hooker, and spent the early part of the decade making the position his own. He bowed out on a high, winning two Championships in his final two seasons with England.
3) Fran Cotton (38 caps for England 1971-81, 7 Lions caps 1974 & 1977)
The iconic prop shone throughout one of England’s more barren decades. After touring twice with the Lions, securing a series win in South Africa in 1974, Cotton’s last full season saw England win a first Grand Slam in 23 years in 1980.
4) Ben Kay (62 caps for England 2001-09, 2 Lions caps 2005)
Kay is arguably the most successful rugby player to come out of Loughborough. A Heineken Cup, Grand Slam and World Cup winner, a British Lion and a member of England’s 50-cap club; the Liverpool-born second-row really has achieved everything an English rugby player could dream of.
5) Derwyn Jones (19 caps for Wales 1994-96)
The towering 6’10 lock was a regular starter for Wales in 1995 and 1996, starting in four World Cup matches and being chosen to tour Australia the following year. His career was short-lived, however, and he made final appearance for his country that December.
6) Eric Miller (48 caps for Ireland 1997-2005, 1 Lions cap 1997)
After impressing for his country in the 1997 Five Nations, Miller was fast-tracked onto the Lions tour later that year, where he came off the bench in a victory over South Africa. He became a regular for Ireland thereafter, and ended his international career just two caps shy of his half century.
7) John Taylor (26 caps for Wales 1967-73, 4 Lions caps 1971)
Another of Loughborough’s ex-students involved in Wales’ ‘Golden Era’, Taylor assisted in four Five Nations successes. His last test, a defeat against France, resulted in the Championship being bizarrely shared five ways – the only time in the tournament’s history that has happened.
8) Alun Pask (26 caps for Wales 1961-67, 8 Lions caps 1962 & 1966)
Just one year after making his international debut, Pask was selected for Lions duty in the 1962 tour of South Africa. After returning, he became ever-present for Wales, playing every match in three consecutive Championship wins. He toured with the Lions again, and played every test in Australia and New Zealand in 1966.
I’m not convinced any other university in the UK could fill an entire starting line-up with full internationals. Furthermore, even if one could, I’m sure that it wouldn’t be comparable in quality. And, as Henry Pyrgos’ presence at scrum-half suggests, this great institution of ours isn’t finished yet.
What do you think of our best Loughborough Rugby Union XV? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure you keep up to date with all of our #Label15 countdown content right here, or via Facebook or Twitter via the hashtage #Label15