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OBITUARY: Roger Swaffield

Bristol Rugby is sorry to report the death of former player, Roger Swaffield. A straight-running, hard-tackling centre who was also used effectively on the wing from time to time, Swaffield played 120 first team games from 1970 to 1977, scoring 12 tries.

Roger Swaffield learnt his rugby at Cotham School where he played as a flanker and represented Bristol Public and Grammar Schools against Somerset and Devon. He progressed to the Old Cothamians club, and it was there that he converted to centre and came to the attention of the Bristol club. He made his Bristol United debut in the 1969-70 season and his first team debut in October 1970.

Roger played 20 matches for Bristol United in the 1970-71 season, winning his United cap. He became a regular first team player over the next four seasons, being awarded his first team cap in 1972-73 and his club blazer two years later. In 1972-73 he appeared in 30 of Bristol’s 56 matches and featured in the club’s first successful cup run.

The RFU had introduced a club knockout competition in the previous season and in 1972-73 Bristol reached their first final following a thrilling semi-final victory at London Welsh. Roger played in this game and then partnered Chris Williams in the centre against Coventry in the Twickenham final. Bristol lost this game 27-15 after hooker John Pullin was injured in the opening minute; no replacements were allowed in club games at that time.

In the autumn of 1973 Australia made a short tour to England and Wales, playing South and South-West Counties at Bath. Roger was one of nine Bristol players in the Counties’ starting line-up, partnering Clifton’s Peter Johnson in the centre. Johnson was in fact the only player behind the scrum who was not currently at Bristol, though he did play for them later. On a famous day for rugby in the region, the Wallabies were defeated by 15-14. Roger was injured seven minutes from the end of this match and replaced by his club colleague Chris Williams. Despite being considered good enough for regional selection, Roger never played County Championship rugby for Gloucestershire, though he did appear for the county in a friendly against Glamorgan at Penygraig in 1973.

Roger Swaffield was appointed captain of Bristol United for the 1974-75 season, but in the event he was still often required by the first team. He played fewer games in the following two seasons, after which, having shadowed John Marsh as assistant treasurer, he took over as club treasurer in 1977-78. A chartered accountant by profession, he held the post of treasurer for two years before moving from the area. In more recent years he acted as treasurer for the Bristol Rugby Former Players, travelling from his Newbury home to attend committee meetings and reunions. He will be greatly missed by his playing contemporaries.