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: 1/11/1941
Honours: Gloucestershire, Barbarians, England, British Isles
Career: 1961-78 296 games
Scored: 11 tries = 36 pts
John Pullin was undoubtedly one of the greatest of all Bristol players, yet his finest achievements were in the jerseys of England and the British Lions.
Educated at Thornbury Grammar School and the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, he joined Bristol Saracens as a youngster, occasionally playing as a prop. After four seasons he attended a trial at the Memorial Ground and joined Bristol.
His debut was a baptism of fire. He played, as a twenty year old, in the Bristol scrum against Newport, in September 1961 where his opponent was Bryn Meredith, current Welsh and Lions hooker. He survived this experience, Bristol won, and he played the following 14 games.
Pullin had already worn the blue and white jersey for Bristol United when a Saracens player. He played six times for the United in both the 1959/60 and 1960/61 seasons.
John Thorne was Bristol's first choice hooker, but Pullin established himself after Thorne's appearances for England in 1963. At one stage both men played in the front row, with Thorne a very capable prop. The experienced David Hazell helped him develop technique, particularly scrummaging. He possessed impeccable striking skills - at a time when heels against the head were common Pullin almost always out-struck his opponent. He initially played when wings threw the ball into the lineout, a role he later had to master.
He was immensely strong, having the natural strength which comes of being a livestock farmer. Such was the power of his grip that his props regularly came off the field with bruises to their ribs where Pullin had bound so tightly. A quiet and conscientious man, Pullin was very fit through work on the family farm in the shadow of the Severn Bridge, and he supplemented his club training by running to Wales and back over the bridge.
In the autumn of 1965 Pullin was selected for Gloucestershire, and after featuring in 3 trials played for England against Wales in 1966. His rapid arrival in the England team was followed by ever quicker ejection, and it was 2 years before he won his second cap, again against Wales. However, Pullin had established himself in the England side on the 1967 summer tour to Canada.
In 1968 he toured South Africa with the British Lions. He was injured at the start of the tour, and was unavailable for the first test, but he recovered and played in the three remaining internationals. He also played in the defeat by Transvaal, which was considered physically harder than the tests. He fell foul of South African refereeing interpretations of the striking laws in the second test, and in the third test was knocked virtually unconscious by an off-the-ball punch.
Pullin was a Lion again three years later on the much-heralded tour of New Zealand. He played in all four tests, which saw the first Lions series win in New Zealand. He played in the notorious games against Hawkes Bay, the Maoris and Canterbury, after which both his props returned home injured.
He toured South Africa with the Barbarians in 1969 and scored a try for England against the touring Springboks the following year. He toured South Africa again in 1972, this time as captain of England. Pullin believes this tour was successful because the selectors stayed at home. The tour culminated in victory over South Africa in Johannesburg.
Pullin led England to victory over New Zealand in Auckland the following summer, after an indifferent Five Nations campaign. He was joined on tour by his understudy at Bristol, John White. Remarkably, the international was the only game won by the tourists. He also captained England in Australia in 1975.
He continued as captain even though domestically England were far from successful. He produced one of rugby's greatest-ever quotations after England's defeat in Dublin in 1973: "We may not be very good but at least we turn up!" The political troubles in Ireland had precluded matches being played in Dublin the previous year. Pullin eventually won 42 England caps, then a record, and captained England to victories over all the major nations except Ireland.
He played for the Barbarians on 19 occasions, most famously in the 1973 encounter with New Zealand. He was involved in the great try scored by Gareth Edwards, and played a prominent role in the 23-11 victory. Remarkably Pullin played New Zealand in 7 international and equivalent matches of which only two were lost. He later became a Barbarian committeeman.
Pullin played in the 1973 cup final for Bristol, but not for long. He suffered a serious knee injury immediately after kick off and had to leave the field. As this was before replacements were permitted at club level Bristol continued with 14 men, but lost despite a courageous effort.
His last match for Bristol was at Gosforth in April 1978. Pullin then devoted himself to his family and business. He had worked on his farm as much as possible during his career, which accounts for only 296 appearances for Bristol in 17 seasons.
There can rarely have been a player who enjoyed more success on the rugby field than John Pullin.