George Burrell

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The Independent Online

George Burrell, rugby player: born 1921; married; died Melrose, Roxburghshire 25 July 2001

George Burrell was a Scottish rugby stalwart – on and off the field. He was capped for Scotland four times, and was a former British and Irish Lions manager.

"Dod" Burrell managed the Lions on their tour to New Zealand in 1977. The coach on that trip, the Welshman John Dawes, described Burrell as "a quiet, tremendously proud Scot. He loved his rugby football – he loved British rugby football. George put his heart and soul into the '77 tour and was bitterly disappointed when we couldn't come away with a series win."

Burrell won his Scotland caps in 1950-51 – against France, Wales, Ireland and South Africa – before beginning a long and distinguished career as a referee and administrator. Scottish fans do not look back on the 1951 match against South Africa with much pleasure, with the tourists recording a record 44-0 win.

Burrell blew the whistle in two international matches – England v Ireland at Twickenham and Wales v Ireland at Cardiff. The Arms Park match was a thriller, with Wales pegging back a 0-6 deficit to win 8-6 after Burrell disallowed two Irish claims for tries.

He served on the Scottish Rugby Union general committee 1968-86 and managed the Scotland side on its tour of New Zealand in 1975. Burrell – who was also chairman of the International Rugby Board – returned down under in 1977, this time in charge of the Lions on their tour of New Zealand.

Burrell's rugby career began at Galashiels Academy, and he was barely 17 when he turned out for the Gala senior side. The Second World War failed to completely interrupt his playing career, with Burrell captaining the 6th Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers to the title of British Army rugby champions. Burrell was a company sergeant in the mortar platoon and was wounded in Normandy in 1944.

On his return to civilian life, Burrell was a member of the first Gala side to play club rugby after the war. A talented utility back, Burrell moved from fly-half to fullback – a position he filled for South of Scotland and his country.

Robert Cole