In its rich history, Bristol has nurtured some of the great stars of the past and present.
We would like to thank Dave Fox and Mark Hoskins for allowing us to take advantage of the superb research they did for their book "Bristol Football Club (RFU) - 100 Greats". Dave and Mark contributed the information and the images.
If you would like to get more information on the club, its players and its history, then you can buy their book at most leading bookshops in Bristol.
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Date of Birth 31/3/1952
Honours England U19, England U23, Barbarians, Devon, Gloucestershire, England & Wales XV, England
Career 1972-84 255 games
Scored 30 tries = 120 pts
Mike Rafter was Bristol's captain for one of the most successful season in the club's history. An inspirational player, he was a rugby philosopher and visionary who was cruelly treated by national rugby selectors.
An all-action player, Rafter became a rugby player by chance. A football fanatic, he had a trial for Bristol City when 14, but went to St Brendan's College where he was introduced to rugby and coached by Elwyn Price. It was Price who guided him from a position of occasional scrum half in house rugby to college back row, where he was ideally suited. He would regularly play rugby for the college on Saturday mornings and soccer for Hotwells in the afternoon. However, rugby was in his blood: his maternal grandmother was Sam Tucker's sister.
Fit, strong and with a rare creative eye, Rafter soon played rugby for Bristol Colts, where he first got the chance to play at the Memorial Ground. He also played for England under 19s.
Rafter studied at St Luke's College, Exeter, and captained a strong side which included several future international players. He represented Devon whilst a student there and played for Bristol, Bristol United and occasionally Old Ashtonians when home from college. His Bristol debut was at Exeter in April 1973 but early in the 1973/74 season he captained the United and was first XV pack leader in a remarkable 13-12 win at Swansea. The young Rafter had already made an impact and responded to the responsibility. He was man of the match.
Fast and pugnacious, Rafter was highly motivated. He gave 100% irrespective of who he played for. He was rarely more than a few feet from the ball and epitomised the support skills integral to the play of a wing forward. He was totally reliable and with Peter Polledri and Bob Hesford formed a back row on which the rest of the team was able to depend. When the ball went to ground Rafter and co were there to gather, protect and recycle.
They were also a devastating attacking unit and worked hard on their unit skills. They perfected attacking moves and several, such as one called "Pete's move", ripped the opposition apart. Even those who knew what was coming couldn't defend against it.
Capped at Under 23 level, Rafter played in a trial for England in 1976 before making his debut in a resounding 26-6 victory over Scotland in 1977. He toured the Far East in 1979 and was a member of England's 1980 Grand Slam squad. He played the last of his 17 internationals in Argentina on England's 1981 tour. Awarded man of the match in both tests, he was mysteriously dropped upon his return for the youthful Peter Winterbottom.
His disappointment at being discarded by England was compensated somewhat by being elected Bristol captain for the 1982-83 season. It was a seminal moment for the club and a great honour for him. In a season abundant with rugby riches the jewel was undoubtedly the 28-22 cup final victory over Leicester. Disappointingly, Bristol lost in the cup final the following season when Rafter was also captain but in the two seasons under his inspirational but demanding leadership Bristol won most of their 100 games.
Yet it was his scandalous omission from the 1977 and 1980 British Lions squads that hurt most. He was the nominated reserve for both tours but that was little consolation, particularly in 1980 when the only true open-side flank forward on the tour had to fly home after the first match. The replacement, a number eight, flew out and the Springboks revelled in their freedom. Instead, Rafter went on the Public School Wanderers tour of Zimbabwe which was arranged to coincide with the Lions tour.
Rafter had an outstanding game for the England and Wales XV that beat Scotland and Ireland in front of the Queen in Cardiff in 1980. He also played for the President's XV against Wales in 1984 to celebrate the completion of the National Stadium.
He was Gloucestershire captain for seven seasons and led the side that won the County Championship in 1983 and 1984. Rafter also played for the Barbarians on four occasions, kicking a conversion in their match with Swansea in 1978.
Rafter relinquished the club captaincy to Polledri at the end of the 1983/84 season. He pulled a hamstring against Bath in October 1984 and although he recovered he took the rest of the season off. By the time the next season arrived he had realised there was more to life than playing rugby and decided not to play again.
Rafter qualified as a coach whilst still playing. He coached the successful 1985 England Colts side to Canada, and also Bristol. He also guided the South West Division to their victory over Australia in 1988 and later coached Bedford, St Mary's Old Boys, Stroud, and the Gloucestershire side which won the 2002 County title.
An inspirational leader and successful businessman, Mike Rafter, or "Rafter the Grafter" as he was affectionately known, is now currently coaching Clevedon, in South West 2 (West) and is well respected by members and players alike.
Mike is also a regular matchday summariser for BBC Radio Bristol when Bristol Rugby play at home.