Andy Ripley's brave fight against cancer
As Rugby Union was moving officially from an amateur to a professional game in the mid-1970s, Britain had some impressive players, among them Andy Ripley who turned out for England from 1972 to 1976. As a sufferer of prostate cancer from 2005, he proved as valiant and inspiring in dying as he had on the field. Born in Liverpool but brought up in Bristol he attended a comprehensive school, then the University of East Anglia before qualifying as a chartered accountant. He would also study at the London School of Economics and, much later, gain a master's in philosophy from Cambridge (where he just missed selection for the 1998 Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race at the age of 49). He was also a linguist and commentated on rugby in French. He enjoyed success in the City, working for the United Bank of Kuwait, among others, before establishing his own business training accountants. Ripley did not play rugby until he was 19 and his entire career (until he was 41) was with the club Rosslyn Park. At 1.95m (6ft 5in) tall, with flowing locks barely restrained by a headband, on the pitch he was a fast and formidable presence; off it, a charismatic maverick. He played 24 games for England and scored the winning try against Wales in 1974 at Twickenham, the first such win since 1960. Although on the Lions' 1974 undefeated tour of South Africa, he was not selected to play in the three tests.
A great all-round amateur, he was also a skilled sevens and basketball player, a sprinter, hurdler and yachtsman, and became world veteran indoor rowing champion. Perhaps his finest achievement, however, was as a campaigner after being diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer in 2005. He shared his condition, kept and published a diary, Ripley'sWorld and, as an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Charity, in interviews and speeches he exhorted men to be tested.
"Dying from cancer," he said, "isn't losing; it's just dying from cancer. We've all got to die of something at some time. Ultimate victory is not living or dying, it's how you deal with it." Blind and wheelchair-bound, a shadow of his former mighty self, he was invested with the OBE weeks before his death. Born on December 1, 1947, he died on June 17 and is survived by his wife and three children.
* The National
Published: June 26, 2010 04:00 AM