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RFU pays tribute to capped centurian

22 August 2011

  • England’s oldest living international rugby union player passes away aged 100
  • Wildash - He epitomised a generation who gave a great deal in sport, in the armed forces and in their working lives
Ex-England scrum half Brian Pope wearing his England cap

Photo: RFU Archive

Brian Pope, England’s oldest living international rugby union player, who celebrated his 100th birthday on June 29, died peacefully on Friday, August 19.

The Rugby Football Union marked his 100th birthday by presenting him with an engraved silver salver and the England Rugby Internationals Club gave him a framed picture and match report from his England playing days.

Brian’s daughter, Victoria Costain, said, “My father made his 100, enjoyed all the celebrations and all the accolades particularly from the RFU.  His family will treasure with pride all the happy memories”

RFU President, Willie Wildash, said, “Everyone at the RFU is thinking of Brian’s family and friends at this time and we are glad to have been able to mark his 100th birthday.  He epitomised a generation who gave a great deal in sport, in the armed forces and in their working lives.  We were proud that Brian remained a great supporter of England Rugby.”

Brian was fit enough to play golf into his 90s, achieving a hole in one on the famous Maiden hole at Royal St George’s in Sandwich aged 92. It was here that he used to swap sporting stories with EW Swanton, the late rugby and cricket writer and commentator, and fellow resident of Sandwich.

Edward Brian Pope was born in Barnet in Hertfordshire in 1911 and attended Uppingham School captaining the rugby team in winter and the hockey team in the Easter term. Going up to Cambridge, at Clare College, he won his rugby blue in 1932, playing in the 8-3 defeat by Oxford at Twickenham.

But Brian was already an England international by then, having played at scrum half in 1931 against Wales, Scotland and France at Twickenham, Murrayfield and Stade Colombes respectively. After an extraordinary 10-try affair in Edinburgh, England went to Paris on Easter Monday, 1931, for what would turn out to be France’s last Championship match before 1947, due to arguments over professionalism. England led three times and scored three tries to two in the 14-13 defeat (under modern scoring values they would have been 19-16 winners).

Brian, whose club was Blackheath FC, later served in the RAF in World War II, and was an underwriting company director, working on the Lloyds Insurance market.

Brian Pope for England:
v Wales, Twickenham, drew 11-11, 17 January 1931; v Scotland, Murrayfield, lost 28-19, 21 March 1931; v France, Stade Colombes, Paris, lost 14-13, 6 April 1931

The family would be happy to welcome anyone who wishes to attend a  Service of Thanksgiving for Brian on Tuesday 18th October at 2.30pm in St. Clements Church, Sandwich.