Willie Duggan: Ireland rugby great dies at age of 67

Willie Duggan made 41 appearances for Ireland
In 1977, Duggan and Geoff Wheel of Wales became the first players to be sent off in a Five Nations match

Willie Duggan, regarded as one of Ireland's greatest ever rugby players, has died at the age of 67.

Duggan passed away at his home in Dunmore near Kilkenny city following a suspected heart attack.

He will be remembered as an outstanding number eight for Leinster who won 41 caps as an Ireland international between 1975 and 1984.

He played in all four Tests during the Lions tour 1977 to New Zealand which the All Blacks won 3-1.

Duggan was regarded as one of the greats by fans of Leinster and Ireland
Duggan was regarded as one of the greats by fans of Leinster and Ireland

In January 1977, Duggan and Wales' Geoff Wheel became the first players to be sent off during a Five Nations game.

Scottish referee Norman Samson dismissed the pair after they had come to blows at a line-out during the match at Cardiff Arms Park.

Duggan helped Ireland clinch the Triple Crown and Five Nations Championship in 1982 while in addition to being a tremendous player, will always be remembered as one of the characters of the game.

During Ireland's successful 1982 campaign, Duggan emerged from the tunnel at Twickenham smoking a cigarette which he requested referee Allan Hosie to "hold for me".

Asked about his notorious 1977 dismissal at the Arms Park, Duggan quipped that he hadn't been sent off, but that referee Samson had asked if he would "mind leaving the field".

Philip Orr and Willie Duggan in action for Ireland in 1982
IRFU president Philip Orr was a team-mate of Duggan's for Leinster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions

Orr plays tribute to former team-mate Duggan

Duggan's former Leinster, Ireland and Lions team-mate Philip Orr described the the number eight as a "phenomenal rugby man".

Orr, who is now president of the Irish Rugby Football Union, added that Duggan was "one of the greatest number eights ever to grace a rugby pitch".

"I had the honour and privilege of playing alongside Willie for Leinster, Ireland and the Lions," continued Orr.

"In all jerseys he was a warrior in the finest sense of the word. Always true to his colours, Willie gave 110% on the field.

"But it was not just in terms of his physical presence. Willie had an extraordinary rugby brain and had an uncanny ability to see problems and opportunities on the field well ahead of team-mates and opposition alike."

The IRFU president added that Duggan "lit up dressing rooms and after-match gatherings with his own colourful, absolutely unique and vibrant wit".

"Willie will be hugely missed. To his wife Ellen, his children Willie Jnr., Helena and Monica and to his extended family on behalf of myself, and all involved with Irish Rugby, I extend our deepest sympathies."

Top Stories