Walter Jones won four Cambridge Blue’s (1968-69-70-72), was the London Irish Captain in 1974, played at 7 in the 1980 Cup Final and was formerly a Committee member of the Irish Exiles Branch. He is now a Principal of a school in Malaysia.
He has kindly answered my questions:
Walter Jones 1980 Cup Final Programme
What is your date of birth/place of birth? Belfast, 11.9.49
When/where did you start to play rugby? Cabin Hill – prep school for Campbell College—when I was 11
Have you always play as a back row forward? Moved there from hooker in the Under 14s
When did join London Irish and how many games did you play? 1973 – no idea, but I retired in about 1984
How many points did you score in your London Irish days? No idea
What brought you to London Irish? As an Irishman, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else
Who was the coach? We didn’t have one
If you didn't have a coach how was the team picked? By the captain and John Hanaway, the team secretary
Who was the Captain? Richard Rea
How were you elected Captain and when were you Captain? In 1974, when I looked round, everyone else had sat down!
What was the training like? In the early days it was pretty hand-to-mouth. There was one poorly-lit and very muddy pitch for everyone. The backs would monopolise that in order to try to drop the ball less frequently, leaving the pack to go off to outer darkness to practise scrums and line-outs.
Who was your most difficult opponent? We had one fairly daft fixture against Bridgend on Good Friday evening; I don’t remember ever winning.
What was Sunbury like in your time playing there? The half-finished stand was fine as a shell, and the bar made up for the rather grim changing rooms
What was your favourite away ground? Bristol – the crowd there would at least applaud our tries
Who do you consider was the best player you played with for London Irish? John O’Driscoll
Who where the characters at London Irish in your time playing? Too many to mention, but there was Tommy Joy, of course
Do you still keep in contact with any of your old team mates? Pat Parfrey, Guy Beringer, John O’Driscoll, Steve Richardson, Dick Spring and I saw a lot of David Donovan (RIP) with the Irish exiles
You played in the 1980 Cup Final, what are your memories of that day? I had struggled to get fit for the final, with an Achilles injury, and we seemed rather overawed. Despite scoring the only try, we were never really looked like winning, with Leicester kicking points fairly regularly. The Club produced a tracksuit for the players for the first time – a ghastly lime-green affair!
How good was the London Irish side you played in?(or) Which season had the strongest team? Over the 11 years the teams varied from the sublime to the pretty appalling. I played in some fairly dire fixtures against Streatham-Croydon, Nuneaton, New Brighton – but there were some great moments, including the cup run. The 73- 74 side of Richard and Harry Rea, Molloy, Kennedy, Bresnihan was very good but the 79 – 80 side was probably a more all-round team.
The professional London Irish team is no longer a team for Irish/ Irish descent players, what are your feelings about this? Times change – but I probably identify more with the amateur club
Do you miss playing for London Irish? They were very good days.
Do you have a favourite story from your playing days? I remember very vividly Mick Molloy advising Alex Newberry to have a quiet word with Alex’s opposite number. Sadly, it was our ball in the scrum, the ref was on the loose-head side and Alex was duly sent off!
Did you go on any overseas tours with London Irish? France and Canada
How difficult was it for London Irish to put out a XV on Inter-provincial weekends? It became more of an issue when the merit table came in and the RFU paid little heed to the IRFU calendar
Did you ever play for an Irish Province (if so which one?) Ulster Under 21 was as far as I went
Do you still have your Honours tie? Yes
Did you play for any other clubs? A few games for NIFC and four years at Cambridge
How many Cambridge Blues did you win? Four
What are your memories of the Varsity matches? Won 2 and lost 2
Where you ever capped at International level (at any age group)? No
Did you play County rugby, if so who for? Eastern Counties
Who different was County rugby compared to playing for London Irish? I enjoyed playing with former Cambridge friends – it was a good standard and we reached two county championship finals
Who was the biggest influence on your rugby career? Bob Mitchell, my coach at Campbell College, who picked me out of the 5th XV
Do you still watch rugby? Yes, though mostly schoolboy matches
Are you still involved in rugby? Not since I left the Irish Exiles committee.
When was the last time you attended a London Irish match? About two years ago
Sunbury or Reading, which do you prefer? Horses for courses
In your opinion should London Irish build their own ground? No
Has your old position changed since you played? Yes, along with the game as a whole
Which modern day player would you have liked to play with? Brian O’Driscoll
Do you prefer the rugby of today or when you played? There are longer passages of play and the skill level is higher, but I wouldn’t like to be playing now
Are there any rules you would like to see changed? I would reduce the points for a penalty to 2
When did you move to Malaysia? A year ago
How different is education in Malaysia compared to the UK? The school where I am offers international O and A Levels and sends leavers to UK universities – in that respect it is very similar. However we also offer the local curriculum with half the lessons in Bahasa Melayu.
What is your occupation? I am a schoolmaster
Can you give a brief resume of your career? After Cambridge, I taught Economics at KCS Wimbledon. I then went to King’s School , Bruton, Somerset as Deputy Head, from where I went to the Royal Grammar School, Worcester as Headmaster in 1993. I started as Principal of Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar in 2005