Jack Rowell

04th July 2024

A Rugby Legend Many May Not Remember


Jack is a player many will not remember played for Middlesbrough Rugby Club.  According to our honours board he didn’t play for England. He didn’t play for Yorkshire. However, he did play. He represented Middlesbrough in the early 1960’s before moving to Hartlepool for a short spell. During trials for Oxford University RFU he was injured and was advised not to play again. Jack, apparently didn’t take that advice and he went on to play for Gosforth Rugby Club in his late 20’s.


Why mention the honours board? Because Jack held lots of them. From 1972 Jack coached Gosforth. In his budding coaching career he led Gosforth to the John Player Cup in 1975/1976 and in 1976/1977. Clearly, this was a man who knew something about rugby. He moved to the South West and went on to lead Bath Rugby Club through a golden era. Between 1978 and 1994 Jack led Bath to eight John Player/Pilkington Cups and five league championships. Some people in Middlesbrough chose Bath as their favourite top rugby side because of this success (citation required PW!).


The success Jack achieved at club level eventually led to the big one. In 1994 he became coach of England. He changed the style of play from a forward dominated style to a running style and wow, it was exciting to watch. England were scoring tries for fun. In 1995 expectations were running high. Jack’s success at club level was surely going to carry through to bring the Webb Ellis home from South Africa. Unfortunately, Jonah Lomu was not factored in, and neither was an audacious drop goal from the All Black backrow Zinzan Brooke.


Despite, failing to win the RWC, Jack’s record as England manager still ranks high. Twenty one of twenty nine games were won (Wikipedia). It must have been the same year Jack finished his tenure as Manager of England (1997), when he returned to Middlesbrough Rugby Club to celebrate the 125th anniversary in the 1997/1998 season.


As a person, I am told, Jack was very approachable but did not suffer fools easily. On one occasion Peter Storey, who played with Jack back in the early to mid 1960’s, was visiting Cheshire and went to watch Bath play. They had just suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Waterloo (as Peter remembers – so this is subject to change). Immediately after the game Peter said hello to Jack and asked if now was a good time to talk. Jack’s reply was  ‘probably not’, but meet me in the bar in 10 and I’ll buy you a pint.


One of our younger players, back in 1991 (an oldie now) remembers Jack coaching him on a tour to Canada. During a training session, Shaun Cassidy remembers Jack telling him to get in amongst it and create a little niggle with the his fellow forwards. Following his instructions Shaun was aggravating a few of his fellow squad members doing exactly what Jack asked. After a while and a few complaints Jack simply said are you are not going to let him get away with that. Foe the next few minutes Shaun became the target of a little retribution. After which Jack simply stopped the session and said “We’re ready”.


Some who played rugby with Jack may have a few anecdotes that can written into the records for prosperity. If you know any stories please let us know so we can add them here in memory to Jack.


Jack passed away on 1 July 2024

RIP Jack (1937-2024).


Below. Jack Rowell with England Student in 1991, featuring Sean Cassidy.

England’s 1st pool match was against the All Blacks so they made the England Students play in black kit so that any aura around black jerseys was eliminated after playing the Students and beating them up.




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