Clive Burgess

Abrasive Wales forward
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The Independent Online

Robert Clive Burgess, rugby player: born Manmoel, Monmouthshire 25 November 1950; married (two daughters); died Ebbw Vale, Gwent 2 May 2006.

Clive Burgess may not have been one of the household names of the 1977 Wales side who won the Triple Crown - but to his illustrious team-mates he was the unsung hero in the murky depths of the forward battle that allowed them to flourish.

Burgess, the no-nonsense Ebbw Vale flanker, earned the nickname "Steel Claw" for his phenomenal mauling strength and was widely considered unfortunate to win only nine caps between 1977 and 1982 after making a try-scoring début against Ireland.

Born in Manmoel, Monmouthshire, in 1950, Burgess joined Ebbw Vale from Croesyceiliog and made his 297th and last appearance for the club as a 39-year-old in 1990, after returning home from a three-year spell in his adopted second home of Italy where he played for Brescia. "I was really fortunate that I played with Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Gerald Davies and J.P.R. Williams and that I got into a Triple Crown-winning side coming off the back of winning the Grand Slam," Burgess once said:

And when I was playing in Italy I also remember playing against David Campese and, although he started on the wing, he also played outside-half, centre and scrum-half in the same game - he was a real danger man. When Wales play Italy I have got to support Wales but, if it is anyone else playing, I support Italy.

Burgess kept his strong Italian connections going by returning to his second home once or twice a year and as recently as June 2003 turned out in a veterans match.

Burgess, who only took up rugby as a 20-year-old after leaving the Merchant Navy, was capped by Wales B against France in 1976, was a key member of that 1977 Triple Crown-winning side and, on his recall from the international wilderness in 1981, was promptly voted Welsh Player of the Year.

The former Wales captain Gareth Edwards said that "the fact he got only nine Test caps was testimony of how good the back-row forwards were in Wales in the late Seventies".

According to Edwards,

He was a no-nonsense, abrasive forward. A real marauding flanker who you didn't want to see come at you with ball in hand. A lot of players from the Seventies were small by today's comparisons, but Clive would have been a very effective ball-carrier playing today. Thinking as a scrum-half, Clive was the sort of player that you wanted in your team, not playing against you. He was a typically hard Ebbw Vale player.

Rob Cole