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It is with inevitable sadness to hear that a true Pirates legend, Brian ‘Stack’ Stevens, sadly passed away on Tuesday evening aged 77.
Born on the 2nd January, 1940, into a family as the youngest of six children, Stack was later educated at Leedstown ‘High’ School and Cornwall Technical College.
He first played for the Pirates ‘Mounts Bay Colts’ team in 1956, whilst his 1st XV debut for Penzance & Newlyn RFC was against RAF Coastal Command in November, 1958.
Besides playing over 500 games for the Pirates, including being an influential team member when the Cornwall KO Cup was won for the first time in 1976, Stack made 83 appearances for Cornwall.
He also, as many will be aware, won 25 caps for England, having made his debut versus South Africa at Twickenham in 1969. Highlights wearing the red rose and white shirt of England included historic away wins against South Africa in 1972 (on a tour when he was skipper for the game against Griqualand West) and against the ‘All Blacks’ in 1973. Scoring a try in the 16-10 victory against New Zealand at Eden Park was truly special, as England became the first of the four home countries to beat the All Blacks on New Zealand soil. Also worthy to mention is playing Ireland away in 1973, when courageous England shrugged off the threat of IRA violence and ran out to a thunderous and sustained ovation at Lansdowne Road.
Another memorable honour for Stack, of course, was when he received a call up and played for the British Lions on their victorious tour of New Zealand in 1971.
He also played for the Barbarians, the Penquins, Harlequins, plus Combined Counties teams.
A busy farmer during his working life, as a rugby player honours bestowed upon Stack were so richly deserved, his exploits making the whole of Cornwall feel proud, and especially for those who felt privileged to play alongside him.
Deservedly made a Life Member of Penzance & Newlyn RFC, he was last year present at a ‘Tribute Night to Stack’ event held at the ‘Westholme’ clubhouse, which proved so worthy in providing recognition of what he achieved as one of Cornwall’s greatest ever sportsmen. It was also much enjoyed by a large gathering present that included so many former Pirates, county players, officials and friends, among them his former England captain John Pullin. During the evening copies of Steve Tomlin’s excellent book ‘Stack Stevens – Cornwall’s Rugby Legend’ were also on sale.
Stack had suffered from a rare and serious neurological condition in recent years, and it was of enormous credit that he had displayed heroic stoicism and courage to battle against it.
Ahead of the Tribute event, the late Don Rutherford OBE, a former England player who was also the first ever Technical Director at the RFU, had said:
Stack was indeed a world-class front-row forward, who in the loose resembled a back-row forward and in this capacity, he was far ahead of his times. His outstanding rugby career has, however, been eclipsed by the courage he has shown throughout his long illness.
Everyone who knew Stack would echo Don’s words, as for the present one and all express will wish to express condolences to Stack’s wife Jane, sons Sam and John (who is a member of the Cornish Pirates squad), family members and close friends.
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