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Bob Hiller

Bob Hillier

BornWoking, October 14 1942
PositionFull back
Internationals19 caps between 1968 and 1972
InductedNovember 24, 2001

Captained England to first win over South Africa in 1969

The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.

The shock waves would have been felt throughout rugby when former Northampton flanker Don White was appointed coach of the England team.

Gins would have gone down the wrong way in committee rooms around the country. But greater splutterings followed when it was learned that as part of the campaign to ensure a first England victory over South Africa in those dark days of 1969, a squad of 30 players was tobe selected four months before the December date, rather than naming a team in the week of the match.

Bob Hiller, the Harlequin full back, was a member of that squad and the captain, his first time at the helm. He was also puzzled. “I don’t know what prompted the change in approach,” he said. “Nor who was behind it, Micky Steele-Bodger maybe, or Albert Agar, who took over from Micky around that time as chairman of selectors.

“We had been used to a run-out on the Friday before a match. And when Thursday afternoons were added to the build-up we were expected to pay our expenses to training sessions.

“But this time we had to go to Leicester to train under a coach. Don was England’s first proper coach. This was really professional stuff.”
But if any committee buffer doubted the wisdom of the change of policy, they were soon disabused of the notion. The squad practice sessions, while perhaps not making perfect, certainly helped to create a bit of English rugby history. Tries by Peter Larter and John Pullin, the latter converted by Hiller shortly before he left the field injured, plus an earlier penalty by the England captain, ensured a historic victory.

“It was fantastic when the final whistle went,” recalled Hiller. “In those days England met New Zealand and South Africa so infrequently that a player was lucky to have one cap against each in his career. It was very emotional afterwards.”

As for his injury, Hiller explained: “It was the first time I had ever left the field injured. I took a hit on my right hip; it must have hit a nerve because my leg was semi-paralysed for a while and I could not move the leg properly. The feeling finally came back when I got in the bath afterwards.”

Hiller, who became a maths teacher, was typically modest in his reaction to his elevation to the rugby peerage. A rugby and cricket Blue at Oxford in the Swinging Sixties, who won a total of 19 caps for England and went on two Lions tours (1968 and 1971), confined himself to saying, “It is a great honour. I am just glad to be remembered.”

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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