Obituary: John Taylor

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The Independent Online
William John Kirwan-Taylor, rugby footballer and businessman: born Sutton, Surrey 29 June 1905; capped five times for England 1928; OBE (Mil) 1946; married 1928 Helene Richards (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1941), 1944 Betty Sims (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1968), Evelyn McConnell 1970; died Lausanne, Switzerland 28 August 1994.

THE TWENTIES were an era of sustained excellence for England rugby teams matched only by the most recent years, though there the similarity ends. When John Taylor was on the right wing during the marvellous year of 1928 the English game was so rooted in its amateurism that if you wanted to get on in business you simply stopped playing.

So it happened to Taylor, who over the course of 10 weeks played in England's defeat of the New South Wales Waratahs - a match accorded international status because Australian rugby consisted only of NSW at the time - and in the defeats of Wales, Ireland, France and Scotland in the Five Nations' Championship which gave England their last Grand Slam for 29 years.

And that was it. Taylor, who read law at Trinity College, Cambridge, and then became a surveyor, subsequently devoted himself to his business career and never played for England again.

England were Five Nations champions more often than not in the Twenties, had already done the Grand Slam by beating all their opponents in 1924 and 1925 and in addition had won the Triple Crown by beating the other three home countries in 1921. So, when Taylor was capped, it was among a number of experienced players.

He had played for Cambridge in the 1926 University match when the Light Blues' 30 points would have been a record but for the 33 Taylor's predecessors had amassed the previous year. He went on to play at club level for Blackheath, then a major power in English rugby, and in January 1928 was selected to make his England debut at Twickenham against an Australian side who had already beaten Ireland and Wales but lost narrowly to Scotland.

England had five new caps in this match, the most notable being Carl Aarvold, a centre- threequarter who had been the Cambridge full-back in Taylor's University match. Receiving a pass from Aarvold, Taylor scored a debut try and England won 18-11. He added a second a fortnight later when England beat Wales 10- 8 at Swansea.

During the Second World War Taylor was lieutenant-colonel in the Rifle Brigade and a General Staff Officer with the American 1st Airborne Division. Taylor was one of the oldest surviving players of the invitation Barbarians club and was also a playing member and later life member of the MCC.