In April this year Andrew Coppel became the new Chairman of London Irish Holdings. During the 1970’s he spent 4 seasons playing for the club. He kindly answered my questions:
What is your date of birth/place of birth? I was born in 1950 in Belfast
When / where did you start to play rugby? 1961 at Belfast Royal Academy
When did you join London Irish and how many games did you play? 1973. I think around 45 times
What position(s) did you play? Full back mostly, though occasionally fly half if the chosen one did not turn up!
How many points did you score in your London Irish days? I am too modest to recall, though I was awarded an honours tie in my first season, for place kicking!
What brought you to London Irish? It was the natural port of call on my arrival in London. I simply called up Matt O’Connor, the then captain of the magnificent Casuals, and the rest is consigned to the bin at the rear of the grandstand.
Who was the coach? We were too good for a coach
Who was / were the Captain(s)? Chris Cusack and Matt O’Connor
What was the training like? Hard work downing those pints in the Hoop, the Bunch of Grapes, and the Turk’s Head
Who was your most difficult opponent? Apart from Lensbury, Bath IV, whom we played by mistake one miserable Saturday when we accompanied KK’s team down to the West Country
What was Sunbury like in your time playing there?Warm, welcoming and great craic. The changing rooms were lousy!
What was your favourite away ground? Bank of England-great cheap beer and super facilities, though Billy Murray cracked his forehead open at the shallow end of the pool practising his high dive!
Who do you consider was the best player you played with for London Irish? Pat McMahon
Who where the characters at London Irish in your time playing? The Cusacks and Billy Murray
Do you still keep in contact with any of your old team mates? Sadly, no
How good was the London Irish side you played in? (or) Which season had the strongest team? The best non-training drinking side in the South East
The professional London Irish team is no longer a team for Irish/ Irish descent players, what are your feelings about this? It is a professional squad, inclusive of all nations. We would of course like to attract more young Irish players with potential, working closely with the Amateur Club, but I believe that our overall approach is right for the whole London Irish family
Do you miss playing for London Irish? Yes, of course, those were marvellous fun days
Do you have a favourite story from your playing days? I think the Billy Murray incident at the BoE was the best!
Did you go on any overseas tours with London Irish? Other than to Bath, no!
Did you play for any other clubs? Bank of England piquets, BRA FP IIIBs
Who was your biggest influence on your rugby playing career? My elder brother
Sunbury or Reading, which do you prefer? Reading-it is the way forward
In your opinion should London Irish build their own ground? Not for the professional game
How has your old position changed since you played? Need to be a lot fitter and be able to run more
Which modern day player would you have liked to play with? Keith Wood
Do you prefer the rugby of today or when you played? The former
Are there any rules you would like to see changed? No supporting the line out jumper
What is your main occupation? Company chairman
Can you give a brief resume of your career? a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast Law Faculty and a chartered accountant. Corporate finance and banking with Morgan Grenfell. Finance Director of Ratners Group plc. Chairman & Chief Executive of Sale Tilney plc. Chief Executive of Queens Moat Houses plc from 1993 to 2003. From 2004 until November 2007, Chief Executive of Jockey Club Racecourses, which owns many of this country’s premier racecourses, including Aintree, Cheltenham, Epsom and Newmarket. From 2000 to 2007 became the founding chairman of Tourism Ireland, a cross border body formed to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination in overseas markets.