Interview with Ken Kennedy (1966 & 1974 Lion)

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Interview with Ken Kennedy (1966 & 1974 Lion)

by PaulHP on Thu May 04, 2006 8:18 pm

Doctor Kenneth William Kennedy


Where did you start to play rugby? Cabin Hill (School) in Belfast.
Have you always played Hooker? No, centre and full back at school.
When did join London Irish? 1968
How many points did you score in your London Irish days? No idea, but top try scorer in my last year.
What brought you to London Irish? Post graduate work at Guys Hospital.
What was the training like? Initially poor.
Who was your most difficult opponent? Usually a good prop.
What was Sunbury like in your time playing there? Fun.
Did you go in Fitzy’s bar? Now and then.
Who where the characters at Sunbury in your time playing? Billy Doyle and Kevin Lavelle.
If professionalism had been introduced in the 1960/70’s would you have turned pro? No.
I understand that you where a substitute for the 1980 Cup Final team, what are your memories of that day? We did not play as well as we could have.
Do you still keep in contact with any of your old team mates? Yes.
The professional London Irish team is no longer a team for Irish/ Irish descent players, what are your feelings about this? I do not like it-but it is necessary.
You played under a number of coaches at Irish, who was the hardest task master? We did not have coaches.
Do you miss playing for London Irish? Not now.
Where was your favourite away ground? Twickenham.

1966 Lions Squad
You toured with the 1966 Lions to Australia and New Zealand, what are your memories of the tour? Fantastic.
How long was the tour? 4 1/2months.
How different was Australian and New Zealand rugby compared to what you where used to? Home Referees in NZ and Aus.
Who was your room mate? Varied.
In your own opinion, who was the player of the tour? Jim Telfer.

1974 Lions Squad
You also toured with the 1974 Lions to South Africa, how did this tour differ to the 1966 one? More professional.
How long was the tour? 2 months.
In your own opinion, who was the player of the tour? Gareth Edwards.
How important to you was becoming a Lion? Very, as I had been unhappy at the selection process in 1971.
Do you think that modern players are missing out on something with their shortened tours, and lack of contact with the people of the countries their visiting? Absolutely.
Do you still think that the Lions have a place in modern rugby? Yes.

You played a large number of games for Ireland, how did it feel to pull on the shirt for the first time? One of the best days in my life.
What are your memories of playing for Ireland? Team spirit.
Did playing for London Irish affect your International career? No.
Who do consider was the best player you played with for Ireland? Gibson.
Who was your hardest International opponent? The 1965 South African front row.
How many tours did you go on with Ireland and to were? One to Australia.
How did the training with Ireland differ to that with London Irish? A lot. Team training with a coach in Ireland, no coach with L.I.R.F.C.
Do you wish that you had the opportunity to play in Croke Park? No.
Will you miss the current Lansdowne Road when it’s demolished? And do you think the new ground should be bigger than 50,000 seater? Yes and yes.

Did you play for any other clubs? Queens University, CIYMS (Church of Ireland Young Mens Society).
Did you win any other honours (inter-provincial/county/blues etc.)? Yes, yes and yes.
How important was Counties rugby when you where playing? A lot. It helped keep up standards.
When did you stop playing rugby? 1980.
Do you still watch rugby? A bit.
Has the position of Hooker changed much since you played? Completely.
Which modern day player would you most liked to play with? The Argentinian pack.
Do you prefer the rugby of today or when you played? Liked my time.
Do you feel that today’s rugby players play too much rugby? Yes.
Are there any rules that you would like to see changed? Lots.
What is your opinion on the muscling up of modern rugby players? In for major orthopaedic problems within 10 years of stopping playing.
Did you think that supplements like Creatine should be banned? Yes.

In Rugby World Magazine October 1974 (see below), featured an interview of you. Questions from that:

It says that at the time you where the most-capped hooker in the world with 41 caps, what do you think when the modern player complains that they are playing too much rugby? They are correct.
Do you think that there are too many international matches played now? Yes.
Did your unique form of training using a slipper really help with your hooking? Yes.
Have you ever been back to Rochester? (The article indicates that you do not like the fact that you were born there). Yes.
How big was the disappointment of not making the 1968 Lions tour? Big, but 1971 Bigger as I was at the top of my form.
Did your knee injury change the way you played? No.
You toured South Africa with London Counties in 1973, what are your memories of that tour? A fun tour which I though was going to be the end of my career.
The article says that you helped in the development of the 8 man shove, how much did the role of hooker change from the time you started playing rugby until you retired? Not a lot changed until now a days when the I.R.B. allowed crooked putting in and prevented set scrums advancing more than 10 yards (compare this with rolling mauls which can go 40 yards!)

You are a Doctor, are you a specialist? Yes.
I understand that you have treated a number of high profile sports stars, do you think having been a top class sportsman helps you understand the injury better, and what treatment is needed? Very much.
Have you received any civil honours (MBE, Doctorates etc.)? Medical Specialisation Doctorates.

Rugby World October 1974


by Rupert Cherry


Kenneth William Kennedy is the most-capped hooker in the world. He has played 41 times for Ireland since 1965, missing only four matches in that time.

An even greater claim to fame is that he was one of the pioneers of the modern style of play in that position.

Not so long ago, the typical hooker was a shortish, square-looking chap, usually with cauliflower ears, who trotted from scrum to scrum conversing in sign language with his scrum-half, practising his art with a mysticism that baffled all who did not belong to the front row.

He did little else, except stand at the front of the line-out and watch the ball thrown over his head. He touched it down with his hands about three times a season.

As a lad in his native Holywood on the shores of Belfast Lough, Kennedy, while at Cabin Hill, the prep school for Campbell College, was taken out of the scrum and given a whole term as a centre or full-back.

Young Kennedy did not like it at the time, but ever afterwards he has been grateful. He had been taught to handle the ball, to pass, and to run with it, as well as to kick it.

Years later, when playing for C.I.Y.M.S., a strong club whose style was similar to the present London Welsh, Kennedy was able to use the skills he had acquired as additional attributes to that of hooking.

He was developing into a mobile hooker – half an inch under six foot, neatly built, weighing 13st 4lb., and with his ears properly shaped. He is the modern model of a player in his position.

Like most other hookers of today, he is quick about the field, can handle the ball with assurance, and has the extra asset, born of his early experience behind the scrum, of knowing where to be at the right time.

Kennedy developed his own style of hooking by practising with a slipper in his bedroom. He believes in a wide sweeping action – “We ought to be called sweepers” he says – rather than jerking at the ball or trying to secure it with the help of a prop’s foot.

Recently the eight-man shove has come into vogue, and Kennedy again helped in it’s development, particularly so on the recent British Lions tour in South Africa. It means that the hooker does not strike, but shoves with the rest of the pack, not only putting pressure on the opposing front-row, but probably allowing them to walk over the ball. At worst, it makes a “bad ball” for the opposition.

As far as sport id concerned Kennedy had every encouragement from his birth in England at Rochester – something which he apparently finds slightly embarrassing to an Irishman – for his father, now a doctor in Holywood, Belfast, played Rugby for Ulster, had an Irish Trial and was a middle-weight boxing champion at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Kennedy seems to regard the fact that his entry into the world should have been at Rochester, where his father was serving in the Royal Navy during the war, as one of his few misfortunes.

The young Kennedy sailed, played tennis, and then soccer at Cabin Hill, and at the age of 12 was introduced to Rugby. A year behind him at the same school was Mike Gibson, who played scrum-half behind Kennedy’s pack at Campbell College.

Both were delighted to meet Bill Russell when they were in Natal with the Lions this year, as he had coached them at Cabin Hill.

Following in his father’s footsteps, professionally, as well as in sport, Kennedy went to Queen’s University and then to study in a hospital in Belfast. Later he arrived in London to spend a year and a half at Guy’s, and to play for London Irish.

He became a British Lion in 1966 on the tour to Australia and New Zealand. He played in two Tests in each country. A year later he was back in Australia: he had acquired a liking for touring!

Life has not held many disappointments for Kennedy, but there were two which must have weighed him down when he might have been at the height of his playing career. In 1968, he was lined up to go with the Lions to South Africa, when his cartilage gave out, and he had to miss the trip.

Three years later, the lions were on the move again, making the famous tour to New Zealand where they beat the All Blacks in a series for the first time. Alas! Kennedy was out of favour with selectors, and was not picked.

However, London Counties’ tour to South Africa turned up in 1973, and Kennedy came into his own again. Although there were two heavy defeats, the tour was a success, and above all it showed the tremendous improvement in British scrummaging.

Here the eight-man shove was developed. ”We shoved the South Africana all over the place,” says Kennedy, and of course it meant success for his part of the job.

“South Africa ought to have taken notice of what was happening on this tour,” he says. “We played several sides which were to meet the Lions. We drew with Transvaal and Boland, and we beat the Universities. It was a warning of what was to come in the next tour – that of the Lions this year.”

Kennedy believes that the secret of the success of the 1974 Lions was the vast improvement of the scrimmaging technique in Britain; and of course in this he played a vital part. He was injured early in the tour, and Bobby Windsor played so well in his place that Kennedy never got into the Test side.

Kennedy is coming to a crossroads in his medical career. He is medical registrar for Chelsea and Kensington hospitals. The question is whether he should go into private practice, and until that is resolved his future is uncertain, but he will go on playing Rugby, at international level if he is needed, as long as he can.

At 32, a hooker need not be considered old. He has the ability, the fitness, and the stamina, so I can see Kennedy’s name being in the top sides for a while yet, if he has the time.

On his retirement in 1975 Ken was the world's most capped hooker. Ireland Career Record: P45, W23, D7, L15. Doctor Kennedy moved into private practice, and has a clinic based in Harley Street. He has treated many sportsman such as Ian & Greg Chapell, Rodney Marsh and Sachin Tendulkar

His International record can be found at: ... HeroID=813

Picture playing for London Irish at Sunbury: ... HeroID=814

Barbarian record: ... =1775#trie

1966 Lions Tour: ... nd1966.asp

1974 Lions Tour:
Last edited by PaulHP on Sun Mar 09, 2008 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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by AlecW on Fri May 05, 2006 6:45 am

Paul - I don't know how you do it! - As always, bleddy good!
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by GWaGG on Mon May 08, 2006 9:18 pm

Really interesting - thanks. Is he an orthopaedic surgeon?
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by PaulHP on Mon May 08, 2006 11:08 pm

He is described as a bankbone specialist in this article, so yes?
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by gabriel on Tue May 09, 2006 2:59 pm

'Bankbone' is a technical medical term.

It means that he is an orthopaedic surgeon with a considerable private practice.
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by GWaGG on Tue May 09, 2006 9:28 pm

How do you hide a £50 note from an orthopaedic surgeon?


1. You can't

or 2. Put it in a medical text book!
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