Obituary: Bob Irving

BOB IRVING was one of the best and strongest-running second-row forwards of his era, who shared in Great Britain's most memorable rugby league successes but who generally managed to be at the wrong club at the wrong time during his domestic career.

Although he was born and played his early rugby in Huddersfield, with the St Joseph's club, he was pinched from under the noses of the local professional side by Oldham and taken over the Pennines at the age of 16. His impact there was so immediate that he was a regular in the first team pack by the end of that 1964-65 season. Not the tallest of forwards, his great asset was the way that he could break through defences with the explosive power of his running.

Selection for Great Britain Under-24s soon followed, and for his native Yorkshire. By 1967, he was also a fixture in the Great Britain side, playing twice against France and then in all three Tests in the series that was lost to Australia in the deciding match at Swinton.

Irving was also a member of the 1970 Lions touring party to Australia - the last to return home with the Ashes - although he played only in the first Test at Brisbane. He was back in the starting line-up for the New Zealand leg of the tour.

Indeed, it was remarkable that he figured in international deliberations at all, because he was a member of one of Oldham's poorest sides; the preceding 1969-70 season had been the worst in their history, as they finished a lowly 29th in the Rugby League's single division. They would have suffered the ignominy of finishing 30th and last if Irving had not scored the try that beat Batley in the final match of the season.

On a more exalted stage, Irving was a member of Great Britain's World Cup-winning squad in France in 1972. By the time he left Oldham in 1973, Irving had won 11 Great Britain caps and his record in a lack-lustre club side also shows what an effective forward he had become. In 296 appearances, he had scored 80 tries for the Roughyeds, without which they would have been in even more dire straits.

On his departure, Irving had the misfortune to be a member of one of the less successful Wigan teams of the post-war period, although he was in the side that beat Salford to win the Lancashire Cup during his first season at Central Park. In four seasons, he played 154 games - this was long before anyone worried about the workload on players - and showed that he had not lost his eye for the try-scoring chance by crossing the line 40 times before he moved on in 1977.

The rest of Irving's career saw him wandering from club to club, starting with Salford, followed by Barrow, then in one of their ambitious phases of importing players from Lancashire and Yorkshire in a bid to recapture their glory days. He played and, for six months, coached at Blackpool Borough, the town where he had a hotel, until he was sacked in the middle of a particularly bad run of defeats.

His last club was Swinton and he retained his knack of try-scoring to the extent that his last months as a player in 1983 still brought him seven tries in 18 appearances. It was a tally that younger forwards would have envied.

At the time of his death, Irving was planning to return to Australia with the Rugby League Lions' Association to watch Great Britain this autumn. By a remarkable coincidence, the Test side is now coached by a man whose career followed Irving's almost exactly. Andy Goodway, a Yorkshireman who played for Oldham and Wigan, also made his name as a devastating ball-runner from the second-row. That helps to illustrate the way that Irving's playing style set a pattern for the future.

Robert Irving, rugby league player: born Huddersfield, Yorkshire 15 December 1948; died Blackpool, Lancashire 18 April 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice