It speaks a lot about the late David Duckham’s daring talent that, while the 1970s belonged to Wales, even their most ardent followers recognized Coventry’s finest son as their own.
How did David Duckham die?
The outpouring of tributes that followed his passing on Monday night at the age of 76 paid homage to the man who played 36 games for England between 1969 and 1976, scoring ten tries in all.
Duckham’s brilliant sidesteps and vision lightened up a dreary decade for English rugby in the international arena and earned him such a favourite among Wales supporters for his remarkable exploits for the Lions and Barbarians that they dubbed him ‘Dai’.
Duckham was the only English player chosen in the legendary Barbarians backline that tore apart the All Blacks in Cardiff in 1973, dominated by star-studded Welsh team-mates, notably wrong-footing the cameraman with an astonishing dummy in one of a number of breath-taking counter-attacks.
David Duckham Career
He had already pleased the Welsh fans when, in 1971, he made an even bigger impression for the Lions in their legendary series triumph against the All Blacks. He played in three of the four Tests and finished the tour with 11 tries in 16 outings, six of which came in a midweek game.
On that tour, the Coventry player was inspired by the offensive freedom that brought out the most in his amazing skill under the guidance of the renowned Welsh coach Carwyn James.
Equally, at home on the wing or in the centre, His abilities as a world-class attacker were most obvious among luminaries like Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, JPR Williams, and John Bevan, as well as Mike Gibson of Ireland.
‘Dai for England,’ the title of his memoirs, is a play on the moniker.
Duckham was born in Coventry and attended Coundon Infant and Junior Schools and King Henry VIII Grammar School. Had some notable moments for the red rose side while playing in an English team famed for its conservative style.
Perhaps his biggest feat was convincing the England squad to come to Dublin earlier in the tournament, during the height of the Troubles, to play Ireland a year after Wales and Scotland had declined to participate.
The England captain, John Pullin, is justifiably praised for his leadership in opting to travel despite the murders of 18 people in the first four weeks of 1973 owing to the spiralling violence. Still, Duckham, the team’s poster boy, was also a key impact behind the scenes.