Rugby world unites to pay tribute to Sandy Sanders

Lesser men would have walked away from the game.

Sandy Sanders was just 31 years old when he suffered more than 30 fractures to his right leg following a horrific motorcycle crash – an accident which claimed the life of a good friend.

At the time, Sanders had been capped nine times by his country and had left his beloved Ipswich YM to join Harlequins.

But in one tragic moment on July 13, 1956, his playing career was over.

Sanders lost eight pints of blood, spent three months in hospitals and was in plaster for a further 13 months.

You may also want to watch:

He had plenty of time to think but one thing was always clear in his mind – he had no intention of giving up on a game that he felt had offered him so much.

Devoting 50 years to the administration side of the game. Sanders was a chairman of selectors for the Eastern Counties and then had a similar role with the national side.

Most Read

In 1973, he led England to their first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand for almost 40 years before becoming a selector for two British Lions tours and then president of the RFU.

But his first love – Ipswich YM – were never far away and he returned to become club chairman and then president.

Leading the warm tributes to Sanders, who passed away on Tuesday, aged 87, Dick Daniels, president of Ipswich YM, said: “To me, he was the epitome of a YM man. Even in his England days, he would always put YM first – he never lost his passion for the game or his regard for the club. This was very much his second home.

“He always felt at home with YM. Even when in the England set-up, he always loved to show off the club to his wider rugby circles.

“He never turned his back on the game. Even this summer, when there wasn’t a match, he would turn up for our ‘4pm club’ to debate the rights and wrongs of the game.

And Sanders’ national achievements were also marked yesterday with current RFU president Willie Wildash saying: “Everyone will be very sad to hear of Sandy’s death. He had tremendous warmth and insight and was a great man of rugby with his club, Ipswich YMCA, who he served as chairman until last year, on the international field of play and helping to run the game. He will be very much missed.”

LOCAL rugby authorities yesterday joined forces to pay tribute to Sandy Sanders.

Harry Moore, chairman of Eastern Counties Rugby Union, led the warm words to Sanders, who once captained the South Eastern Counties against the New Zealand All Blacks at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town, in March 1954.

Moore said: “DL ‘Sandy’ Sanders was a highly respected and well-known figure who will be sorely missed. Sandy rose to prominence in the English game, first as a player and then as an administrator. But he never lost touch with his roots – he was always willing to help, advise and give encouragement. We will all miss him.”

Martin Peacock, secretary of Suffolk Rugby Union, added: “A legend in his own lifetime, with not only England caps, RFU presidency and managing Lions tours to his name, but the ability to make anyone he met completely at ease. A true gentleman. He will be greatly missed by YM, Suffolk and the rugby world at large.“

* We would like to hear your tributes to Sandy Sanders for a special edition of Love Rugby next week. Please send them to

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus