2017 got off to a roaring start at Under The Posts, with 4 big rugby events, and greats of the game past and present in attendance.
First up, Wales and Lions heroes Tommy David and JPR Williams were the guest speakers, and discussions moved between rugby, drinking, tennis, and outrageous facial hair, as they were grilled by MC, Roger Dakin.
David, the back-rower with over 400 appearances for Pontypridd, was an uncapped unknown when he was selected to play for the Barbarians against the mighty All Blacks in 1973. The game is widely regarded as one of the finest ever played, and featured a try by Gareth Edwards that is often called the greatest try ever scored. Tommy David popped up in the build-up to the score, and played a barnstorming role in an epic victory for the Barbarians. He was subsequently selected to play for Wales, and also went on the historic 1974 Lions tour to South Africa. He amused the crowded dining room below Mincing Lane with great tales from various tour shenanigans, and, in true Welsh fashion, even burst into song at one point. I almost joined in with the singing, but was reminded that people were there to enjoy themselves, and not to be tortured slowly to death….
JPR is acknowledged not only as one of the very best players in the history of rugby, but also the owner of the greatest sideburns in the history of mankind. Allegedly…. Although, he almost chose another sport as a youngster. He was a British junior champion at tennis, but opted for rugby and went on to win 3 Grand Slams, play a key role in 2 victorious Lions tours in 1971 and 1974, and beat England on each of the 10 occasions he played against them. One got the sense that this last stat, against the old enemy, was the thing he was most proud about achieving in his illustrious career. Who can blame him?
Next up was a dinner for former Leicester Tigers number 8 Jordan Crane, as part of his benefit year. The Grange City hotel provided the surroundings as Tom Croft, Ben Youngs, and Danny Care took to the stage to dish the dirt on Crane.
Care, who played in the Leeds academy with Jordan, revealed that blonde is, in fact, not Craner’s natural hair colour. The audience were hardly stunned to hear that it came out of a bottle, and were even less surprised to find out that Jordan’s year-round tan was also out of a bottle, albeit a different one. However, Danny was able to confirm that Jordan’s dress-sense has always been unusual, and was not a result of gaining fame and fortune as a professional rugby player.
Meanwhile, Ben Youngs took a great deal of the heat away from Jordan, as Tom Croft immersed the audience into the weird world of Stuff Ben Said. Despite being a world-class scrum-half, Youngs was revealed to be guilty of more than the occasional stupid comment. Over the last 7 years, these have been compiled to form a Twitter account (@stuffbensaid ) and a book. Edited by Croft, the book has been sold to raise funds for the Matt Hampson Foundation ( matthampsonfoundation.org ). All in all, a cracking night was had, to celebrate the career of a Tigers great.
Next up, Under The Posts brought former England and Lions scrum-half Matt Dawson down to Balls Brothers. After a glittering 14-year playing career in which he won the Premiership, European Cup, and World Cup, Dawson transferred that success to TV. In 2004, he lined up opposite Ally McCoist, and later UTP regular Phil Tufnell, as captain of one of the Question Of Sport teams. He also won the inaugural Celebrity Masterchef in 2006, and, later that year, he finished a close second to cricketer Mark Ramprakash, in the Strictly Come Dancing final. Daws was on cracking form, and even donned an apron to act as a waiter for one of the tables. The fact that the table guests were all women was, I’m sure, irrelevant….
In his Q&A, Matt had some great tales about his experiences in the sporting world, and in the celebrity world. And yes,Tufnell is as crazy as he appears.
The final rugby do of January saw former England hooker Brian Moore down for lunch at Balls Brothers. Probably best known these days as a successful broadcaster and journalist, Mooro was another player with an outstanding career. He retired as England’s most capped hooker, having won 3 Grand Slams, played in the 1991 World Cup Final, and toured twice with the Lions. Renowned as great French/Welsh/Scottish/Aussie baiter, Mooro clearly has lost none of his appetite for the spoken word, as he told stories about some of the real characters of the game from the amateur era. His hugely entertaining Q&A reminded all those in the room born before about 1990, that the old days were definitely the best, and that modern rugby is in danger of losing those characters that have made the game so great to be around.