Gavin Fraser In Rugby Union


Introduction

G avin Fraser was born in Liverpool on 23rd February 1972. His mother, Maureen, is Bruce Rankin's granddaughter. Gavin moved to Formby in October 1978 with his family and attended Woodlands Primary School. From 11 years of age, he was educated at Merchant Taylor's School for Boys in Crosby and then completed his education at the University of Humberside in Hull and Liverpool John Moores University.

Gavin's Early Years in Sport

Gavin was an all-round sportsman as a youngster. He represented Woodlands Primary School at football, athletics, cricket and rugby. He played in goal for the football team. It had its most successful year ever in 1982-83, Gavin's final year at the school, winning the Formby Schools League, Cup and 5-a-side competitions and the Merseyside Schools' 5-a-side Cup and reaching the quarter-finals of Merseyside Schools' Echo Cup and the Merseyside Schools' 7-a-side competition.

Gavin was selected to play in midfield for the Formby Primary Schools representative team for the 1982-83 season. The team played in a league with teams from other local Primary School Associations including Bootle, Maghull, Crosby, Kirkby, Southport, South Wirral, St Helens and Warrington. According to the Formby Times, the team's record in 1982-83 "surpassed any other since Formby joined the competition".

In September 1983, Gavin moved to Merchant Taylors' Boys School in Crosby. As football was not played at the school, he now had to take up rugby, but continued to show all-round sporting ability, representing the school at cricket and athletics as well as rugby.

It took Gavin a little time to break into the 1st Year rugby team as the boys who had played for Merchant's Preparatory School team were selected in the first instance. However, once Gavin broke into the team he was a regular in each age group, playing mainly on the wing or at full-back and occasionally at fly-half and centre.

At the beginning of the 1985/86 season, Gavin began to play for the Waterloo RUFC at Under-14 level. The highlight of his first season with them was beating Littleborough 32-0 in the Lancashire Under-14 Cup Final. He played at fly-half, scoring a try. A number of people at the game, including the team manager, said that Gavin was "man of the match".

Gavin had also continued to play football for Redgate Rovers football team in the Craven Minor League when his rugby commitments allowed. In that 1985/86 season. he was selected to play for the Craven Minor League representative team in the Liverpool FA and Lancashire FA Cup competitions and was appointed captain. The team was knocked out in the first round of the Liverpool competition by Skelmersdale, but gained their revenge when they beat them 4-2 in the Lancashire Cup. The Craven Minor team went on to reach the final at Haig Avenue, only to be beaten 2-1 by Blackpool. Nevertheless, it was a great achievement for Gavin to play in Lancashire Cup Finals at rugby and football in the same season.

Gavin missed 10 weeks of the 1986/87 rugby season through injuries - the first when he was knocked unconscious in a Sevens tournament and detained in hospital overnight for observation and then with damaged shoulder ligaments. These injuries prevented him from playing when he was selected to represent North Merseyside Schools and also Lancashire Clubs.

However, he did manage to turn out for Waterloo in the semi-final and final of the Lancashire Under-15 Cup when he gave two excellent performances. In the semi-final, he scored two tries and two conversions in the defeat of Preston Grasshoppers by 26pts to 4 and, in the 28-0 defeat of Orrell in the final, he scored a glorious drop goal from a considerable distance, three conversions and a penalty.

The 1987/88 season saw Gavin's first real recognition for his undoubted ability at rugby when he was selected to play at full-back for the Lancashire Schools Under-16 side. In all of the County games, the ground was heavy, which prevented him from demonstrating his strong running, but he nevertheless gave a competent display throughout the series of seven games, including two friendlies. In the North of England series of games, Lancashire were undefeated, beating Cumbria, Northumberland, Cheshire and Durham and drawing with Yorkshire.

Gavin also earned selection for Lancashire Clubs but was only able to play in two games because of his selection for Lancashire Schools, which took precedence. His first game for the Clubs was against Northumberland Schools at Vale of Lune on 15th November 1987, when he scored a try in the dying seconds to tie the game at 18 points each. He also played in the Lancashire Clubs' final game of the season on 29th April 1988 against North Midlands under floodlights. Lancashire won and Gavin scored a brilliant try, running the full length of the pitch from his own 22. Both his games were at full-back.

At school and club level, Gavin's versatility meant that he played in four different positions - full-back, centre, wing and fly-half. He gave an excellent display for Waterloo at full-back in the Lancashire Under-16 Cup Final in which Waterloo beat Littleborough by 7 points to 6. He was also a member of the Waterloo Sevens team that won two competitions, at Mold and Newton-le-Willows.

Being chosen as Waterloo's "Player of the Year" brought a wonderful end to the 1987/88 season for Gavin.

Gavin qualified to play for Scotland through his father and he was invited to attend the first trial for the Scottish Under-18 squad one Sunday in January 1989. He turned up at Murrayfield only to find that the trial was cancelled because of heavy snow; the school would not release him for the second trial which was held in midweek.

Gavin was a regular for the School 1st XV during the 1988/89 season when the side had one of its best years ever, losing only three of the 21 games and winning the Hymers Sevens competition. Gavin missed four of the 21 games through injury. The team's coach Mike Slemen, former British Lions winger, wrote in the school magazine, "Fraser had an exceptional season scoring 20 of the team's 78 tries", and, in awarding Gavin his colours, he added, "He had pace, elusiveness and the willingness to look for work".

Because Gavin was in the 1st XV at Merchant Taylors', he did not play for Waterloo, as Mike Slemen did not want his players to turn out on a Sunday after playing for the school team.

Gavin's final year of school rugby, proved to be rather disastrous. He suffered an ankle injury in the first game of the season, which caused him to miss half of the games and, despite being selected for the Lancashire Schools Under-18 representative team, he was not fit enough to make a single appearance. In March 1990, he eventually had to have an operation on his Achilles tendon to cure tendonitis.

Senior Rugby

Hull and East Riding RUFC    Hull rugby Union Club

1990-91 Season

Gavin went to Humberside University in October 1990 to study European Business Studies. Mike Slemen, his rugby coach at school, advised him to go to the Hull and East Riding Rugby Club, which played in the North Division 7.

It turned out to be quite a good move for him. He was selected at full back for the first team, which included two Zimbabwean internationalists, Billy Schultz and David Walters, who had come over to England to acclimatise themselves for the Rugby World Cup in 1991.

Gavin quickly made a good impression at full-back, turning in some fine performances and scoring a number of tries.

In February 1991, Gavin left Hull to study for six months in Bordeaux in France as part of his Business Studies Course. When he left, Hull and East Riding were top of the league and were promoted at the end of the season to Division 6 as runners-up.

In France, Gavin played a number of games for the Begles Bordeaux Under-21 team on the wing and at full-back.

Although Gavin was away in France, the Hull and East Riding team selected him for the squad to tour Zimbabwe during Easter 1991. He played in the four games, one of which was against Karoi (Billy Shultz's and David Walter's team). Hull won three games and lost one. Gavin enjoyed his experience in Zimbabwe. The hospitality extended by their hosts was exceptional and they had sufficient time off from rugby for sightseeing, visiting Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba.

Hull & East Riding RUFC no longer exist. On July 1st 1992, they merged with Old Hymerians RUFC to form Hull RUFC.

Waterloo RUFC    waterloo.jpg - 10 KB

1991-92 Season

Gavin was back at Humberside University when the rugby season started, but he decided that he would travel home most weekends to play for Waterloo rather than Hull and East Riding. He was captain of the under-21s, but also played several games for the 2nd and 3rd XVs.

1992-93 Season

Gavin broke into the first XV on 24th October 1992 against Wakefield and kept his place for the remainder of the season. In the week before the game, the Liverpool Echo reported, "Man of the moment is the strongly built 20-year-old ex-Merchant Taylors' schoolboy Gavin Fraser, who makes his debut on the wing where his weight and speed is expected to cause problems for the opposition."

Waterloo beat Wakefield by 22 points to 11, consolidating their third position in the League. Gavin had a good game according to the Liverpool Daily Post, "New boy Gavin Fraser, on the left wing, kept his opposite number Jon Sleighthome, subdued and showed he can kick well for advantage, but had little opportunity for anything else."

Gavin certainly made a name for himself in the next game, against Richmond in London. Waterloo won 16-12, despite having hooker, Paul Hackett, sent off early in the second half. Gavin scored a try in the second-half to give Waterloo an 11-9 lead. However, after Richmond had re-taken the lead with a drop goal, Gavin raced through the defence in injury time to score his second try and seal a narrow victory for Waterloo.

Early in January, Waterloo found themselves at the top of Division Two when they trounced Bedford 28-8, with Gavin scoring one of the tries.

Waterloo, however, were unable to hold on to the top spot. Going into the final League game of the season, they had to win at home against Blackheath by a landslide and hope that Newcastle Gosforth would lose at Moseley. Newcastle did lose, but only by three points, while Waterloo could not overcome the 69 points deficit, which separated them and Newcastle. Waterloo beat Blackheath by 27-6. Gavin had a fine game, setting up one try and scoring two himself.

The disappointment of failing to win promotion was somewhat tempered by a tremendous run in the Pilkington Cup, with victories over Lichfield, Bath and Orrell, before losing controversially to Harlequins at home in the quarter-finals.

Gavin played in all of the games, scoring a try against Lichfield in the first round. In the second round, Waterloo faced Bath, England's champion club side, at Blundellsands on 28th November. Bath, who had won the Cup seven times in the past, had a team full of internationals, including Jonathon Webb, Tony Swift, Jeremy Guscott, Phil de Glanville, Richard Hill, Gareth Chilcott, Graham Dawe, Jon Hall and Andy Robinson, who later became the England head coach. Despite the Cup game, Bath released Stuart Barnes and Ben Clarke, both current England internationals at that time, to play for the Barbarians that Saturday. Over-confidence, perhaps!

The Waterloo team was: Steve Swindells; Austin Healey, Murray Craig, Nigel Hill, Gavin Fraser; Paul Grayson, Christian Saverimutto; Mark Becket, Paul Hacket, Steve Peters; Nick Allott (captain), Paul White; Jonathon Ashcroft, Stuart Beeley, Peter Buckton.

Describing Waterloo's 9-8 victory, Mark Reason of The Sunday Times wrote, "Upsets do not come much bigger than this. The Cup-holders, Bath, came to Waterloo with firm resolve and confidence, to them just another step on the well-worn golden path to 1993 glory..... England's champions were rattled to their back teeth by a magnificent display of tackling from the Second Division side."

In the next round, on 23rd January 1993, Waterloo faced their local rivals, Orrell, who, like Bath, were a Division One side. Waterloo showed only one change from the Bath game with Nigel Wilkinson replacing Paul White in the second row.

Playing with the strong wind behind them in the first half, Waterloo were 5-0 up after 24 minutes, when Austin Healey went over in the right-hand corner. Orrell reduced the arrears to two points with a penalty ten minutes later, before Paul Grayson's penalty in the 35th minute restored Waterloo's five-point lead. There were no further scores in the remaining 45 minutes, with Waterloo emerging 8-3 winners.

According to Stephen Jones, the Sunday Times' rugby correspondent, this victory was even more of an achievement that the win over Bath because, in the second-half, when they were playing against a gale force wind, Waterloo were in Orrell's half for no more than five seconds. The Waterloo defence was magnificent, he wrote, and he highlighted the defensive play of the back three, Swindells, Healey and Gavin.

Next, it was Harlequins in the quarter-final on 27th February, again at Blundellsands. Victory would put Waterloo into the semi-finals for the first time since 1977.

For Waterloo, there were two changes to the team that defeated Orrell - Ian Aitchison came in at fly-half for the injured Paul Grayson, whilst Tony Ireland replaced Ashcroft in the back row.

Harlequins fielded a strong side, full of internationals, including the England captain, Will Carling.

Despite taking an early lead through a Saverimutto try, Waterloo were beaten 21-14 in a game full of controversy and which, according to John Reason writing in the Mail on Sunday, "almost degenerated into another Battle of Waterloo".

Some of the Harlequins players apparently wore illegal studs and when this was drawn to the attention of the referee by Waterloo players, some of the Harlequins side had to change their boots. Waterloo officials reported that two of their players received bad injuries from the use of these illegal studs, one requiring nine stitches. In addition, full-back Steve Swindells was detained overnight in Walton Hospital after being elbowed in the face. Waterloo felt cheated, especially when many of their opponents were full England internationals, whom they felt should have known better than to resort to the use of illegal studs and foul play.

The only success for Waterloo that year was winning the Lancashire Cup. Gavin played in all of the Cup games, including the final.

The highlight of Gavin's season was probably being selected to play on the left wing for Scotland Under-21s against Wales at Myreside in Edinburgh on 19th February 1993. He was in the original squad of 40 players, but had missed the squad training sessions because of injury. After three defeats, the Scottish selectors decided to make sweeping changes and Gavin was called up for the final game of the home countries series against Wales.

Scotland were trailing 8-3 at the interval, but equalised early in the second half with a try. However, Scott Quinnell, who was later to be a formidable presence in the full Welsh forward line, scored a try when he ran through a number of the Scottish defenders, including Gavin. Wales later scored a penalty to end the match with a 16-8 victory. Because of the dominance of the Welsh forwards, Gavin was restricted mainly to a defensive role.

Earlier in the season, Gavin had played four games for the Scottish Exiles Under-21 side in the District Championship. The Exiles finished next to bottom in the league, with only one win, 36 points to 12 against the North and Midlands, with Gavin scoring a try, and a draw against the South of Scotland.

Although Gavin was still a student at Humberside University, it was his placement year and he was working as a marketing assistant for the Liverpool Echo.

1993-1994 Season

Gavin only managed to play ten League games for Waterloo this season, mostly on the left wing, as he was injured in the home game against Sale at the end of January 1994. Waterloo lost 28-10 and Gavin had to leave the field with an ankle injury. He also appeared in one Pilkington Cup game and two Lancashire Cup ties.

Gavin shone in the home game against Moseley in the League on 20th November. Waterloo won by 12 points to 5 and, according to the match report in the local paper, Gavin caused countless problems for the Moseley defence with his strong runs.

The highlight of Gavin's season was his selection on the left wing for two games for the full Scottish Exiles team. The first was against Leinster In October to mark the opening of the floodlights at Landsdowne Road in Dublin; the second was in November against Auckland, New Zealand's provincial champions. The Exiles lost both games.

After a very successful season the previous year, this season proved to be a great disappointment for Gavin, with a lack of tries and an ankle injury in January, which effectively brought his season to an early finish. The one bright spot for him was playing for the full Scottish Exiles team, which gave him encouragement to aim for higher international honours.

Fitting in the Waterloo training sessions around his work and his University commitments was somewhat problematic for Gavin throughout the year. Upon the completion of his placement in the summer of 1993, the Liverpool Echo management offered him full-time employment as a marketing assistant, on the condition that he completed his marketing degree on a part-time basis at John Moores University. He eagerly accepted the offer, but this necessitated attending John Moores University two nights each week for a further two years to complete his degree.

Season 1994-95

Because of an ankle injury, Gavin was unable to play for Waterloo until 12th November when he took his place on the wing against the leading Scottish side, Boroughmuir, in a friendly at Blundellsands. Waterloo won convincingly by 29 points to 16, and Gavin looked really sharp, scoring one try.

Gavin did not play for Waterloo again until after the New Year because he was selected to represent the Scottish Exiles in the McEwan's Inter-District championship, playing in the four games at full-back.

The first game was against the South of Scotland on Saturday afternoon, 3rd December, at Murrayfield. It was a fairly dour game and Graham Law, the rugby correspondent for the Scotsman, reported that "the only play worth describing was a superb fifth-minute try from Gavin Fraser..." Although the Exiles went on to win easily by 25 points to 9, that was the only try of the game.

The Scottish Exiles team was: Fraser (Waterloo); Kemp (Saracens), Craig (Waterloo), Eriksson (London Scottish), Appleson (Sale); Laing (Istonians), Patterson (West Hartlepool); Hilton (Bristol), Mair and Burnell (both London Scottish); Cronin (Bourges), Reed (Bath, captain); Blyth (Waterloo), Holmes (London Scottish), Peters (Bath).

The following Saturday, again at Murrayfield, the Exiles faced Glasgow. There were two changes to the Exiles side, both in the forwards - Gilchrist replaced his London Scottish clubmate Logan Mair at hooker and Ian Morrison also of London Scottish took Simon Holmes' place in the back row. The Exiles outshone their opponents to win rather easily by 34 points to 13. However, the points difference might have been even greater had the referee not judged Gavin to have interfered with Kenny Logan in a kick and chase effort and awarded Glasgow a penalty try, a decision that infuriated Gavin.

In the Exiles' third game in the series, the following Friday evening, they overwhelmed the North and Midlands 41-13. Murray Craig of Waterloo scored three of the Exiles tries, with Mark Appleson of Sale adding the other two.

This meant that the winners of the Championship would be decided in the final game between the Exiles and Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, 23rd December at Murrayfield. The result of the game was in doubt until the last kick of the game when Gavin Hastings, the Edinburgh and Scotland full-back, had a chance to equalise with a penalty from 46 metres, but it fell short to leave the score at 19-16 in favour of the Exiles. The Exiles managed only one try, in the fourth minute, when Gavin started the move that led to a try by Appleson. That try effectively killed off any hope Edinburgh may have had of winning the title as they then needed to outscore the Exiles by nine tries to edge the title.

Victory gave the Exiles the Inter District championship trophy for the very first time, winning it in style with victories over the other four District sides.

After completion of the Scottish District games, Gavin was recalled to the Waterloo first XV on the wing for the first League game of 1995 against Newcastle Gosforth at Newcastle. Waterloo's hopes of maintaining their Second Division promotion challenge were dashed with a defeat, but Gavin "celebrated his recall with an individual try".

Waterloo's biggest game of the season was against Wasps from the First Division at Blundellsands in the Pilkington Cup. Waterloo took a 6-0 lead after 30 minutes over their more illustrious opponents, but were made to pay heavily for their audacity. Wasps, raising the tempo of the game by tapping every penalty, ran in eight tries in the remaining 50 minutes to one by Waterloo, triumphing 54-13. The Wasps team included Rob Andrew, Dean Ryan and Lawrence Dallaglio.

Gavin's last game for Waterloo was a Lancashire Cup tie at home against Manchester, from the Division below. Surprisingly, Waterloo were deservedly beaten in a poor game. Gavin was dropped for the next League match and did not play again as he was injured and had signed to play the following season for London Scottish, also a Division Two team.

Waterloo had lost their best young players over the previous two years with Paul Grayson moving to Northampton, Austin Healey to Orrell, Will Greenwood to Harlequins, Chris Saverimutto to Sale and Andy Northey turning professional with the St Helens Rugby League Club. The loss of these players ripped the heart out of their backs and midfield. The first four of those players later became full internationals and Gavin felt that it was a good time to further his rugby career elsewhere.

Whilst at Waterloo, Gavin had played alongside four members of the original England World Cup winning squad of 2003 - Paul Grayson, Will Greenwood, Austin Healey and Kyran Bracken. Healey did not make the final cut. Waterloo also provided a fifth member of the squad, Ben Kay, who was several years younger than Gavin, so they did not play together. Stuart Turner, another Waterloo colleague, also played for England, making his debut when he had turned 30.

In his three seasons with Waterloo, Gavin had played 40 first XV games scoring 11 tries - 20 Courage League games, six Pilkington Cup ties, six Lancashire Cup ties and three friendlies.

During his last season there, Gavin had continued to fit in his training sessions around his work and university commitments. However, he graduated in the summer with a BA Honours Degree in Marketing.

London Scottish    londonscottish.png - 5 KB

1995- 1996 Season

Gavin moved to Guildford during the pre-season and worked for CLI Connect, based in Guildford, as a Business Development Manager. He travelled to Richmond in London, a car journey of 30 miles, to train with London Scottish two evenings a week.

He had a tremendous first half to the season at full-back. His performances were such that a report in Rugby World of February 1996 suggested that he would be pressing the then Scotland full-back for his place.

By the end of January, London Scottish were second in the Second Division, having lost only once, to Northampton, the league leaders, at Franklin Gardens on 4th November. London Scottish had held Northampton to a 12-8 lead at the interval, but the home team then ran in six tries in the second half, including a hat-trick by Gregor Townsend, the Scotland international, to win eventually by 54 points to 11. Despite the heavy defeat, Gavin played well.

In an earlier game, against Bedford on 4th October, Gavin made a name for himself for all the wrong reasons in an impressive 50-10 victory. He was involved in a punch-up with an opponent but was not even shown a yellow card. However, he did score a try in the first half.

Gavin was again selected in the Scottish Exiles squad for the Inter-District Championship. They began their defence of the title against Edinburgh at Richmond on 6th December on a bitterly cold evening with a light dusting of snow on the pitch. The Exiles won by 17 points to 6. Gavin played at full-back, but had little chance to make a name for himself.

Victory for the Exiles in the second game, three days later, over Glasgow at Burnbrae was by the narrowest of margins, 28-27. Gavin set up one of the Exiles' tries when he placed a delicate little chip over the Glasgow defence for centre Murray Craig to run on to the ball and score.

The following Saturday, the Exiles beat North and Midlands 21-9, and then secured their second successive Scottish Districts' title when they easily beat South of Scotland by 34 points to 9. Gavin played in the first three games, but missed the final game against the South because of another ankle injury he suffered in a League game for London Scottish.

This was to be the last season that rugby would be a totally amateur sport. The Scottish Rugby Union's plans for professionalism and European Rugby did not include room for the Scottish Exiles, which infuriated the Exiles coach Alastair McHarg. There were to be only three Scottish-based super-district sides, Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders.

Just before the New Year, London Scottish suffered their second defeat in the League, which effectively ended their promotion chances. The morale of the Scots suffered so much that they lost several more games, leaving Northampton and London Irish to be promoted from Division Two.

That second defeat came on 28th December 1995, when Scottish lost away to London Irish by a single point - 21 points to 20. Defeat was all the more galling as London Scottish played running rugby, scoring three tries to none by the Irish. The difference in the end, was the kicking of the Irish left winger, Michael Corcoran, who put over seven of the eight penalties awarded against the Scots, giving the Irish that decisive point lead five minutes from the end of the game. Gavin was still out with his ankle injury and his replacement at full-back, Nick Robinson, scored two tries.

Gavin played only one more game for London Scottish, a friendly against Bristol. However, his ankle injury flared up again and he had to leave the field in the second half. He had played 11 League games, scoring two tries, and one game in the Pilkington Cup in a defeat away to Nottingham, when he scored a try.

Luckily, Gavin's season did not end in December. He was selected at full-back for the Scottish Development XV, which had two games in February 1996. In an effort to play in those games, he went for treatment to Margot Wells, wife of the Olympic gold medalist, Allan Wells. Somehow, she managed to get him fit and, on 1st February, he played in the 84 points to 3 victory over Durham County at Pennypit, Prestonpans. The Development XV scored 12 tries, all of them converted by stand-off Mark McKenzie. Gavin scored two tries and could have had a hat-trick, but he passed unselfishly for the left-wing, Neil Renton, to score when he could have strolled over the line himself.

The next game was at Murrayfied on 11th February against the touring New South Wales side, one of the top teams in the world. The Australians included eight full internationals, whilst the Development team had only three, two of whom, scrum-half and captain Andy Nicol and left wing Tony Stanger, were coming back from serious injury. In fact, Stanger only lasted 12 minutes before he had to leave the field with a recurrence of his groin injury.

New South Wales won by 48 points to 11 and were simply too good and powerful for the Development team. Gavin, at full-back, was certainly not disgraced and made several strong tackles. One in particular, was at full-length when he brought down one of the wingers near the corner when a try looked a certainty.

London Irish    londonirish.gif - 2.7 KB

1996-97 Season

Before the start of the season, the first of open or professional rugby, Tony Tiarks, who had bought London Scottish, brought in Gavin Hastings, the former Scotland full-back and captain, as a sort of broker in negotiating contracts with the current playing staff and recruiting new players. After weeks of uncertainty during the close season, neither Gavin nor Nick Robinson, the other full-back at the Club, were offered a professional contract. Derek Lee was brought in from Scottish rugby on a professional contract to fill the full-back position.

Gavin was unhappy with the situation and talked to several other clubs. Meanwhile, Alistair McHarg, his coach at Scottish Exiles, recommended him to Clive Woodward, who was the coach at London Irish, and he joined London Irish on a pay as you play basis three or four weeks after the beginning of the season.

Clive Woodward had taken London Irish into the First Division of the Courage League the previous season, when London Scottish narrowly missed out on promotion. Therefore, he was more than surprised to be attacked from the floor at the AGM in July 1996 for bringing in non-Irish players and turning the Club into an English club. Woodward left the meeting, telling members that he did not wish to be part of a club that sanctioned discrimination. He left the Club formally three months later, after being told his services were no longer required.

So, Gavin had no sooner joined London Irish than the person who had signed him left the club.

Woodward, of course, went on to become the coach of England and led them to World Cup triumph in 2003.

Gavin played mainly for the Second XV at London Irish, although he did appear in a number of first team games. He was a replacement in a Courage League Division One game against Gloucester at Kingsholm, coming off the bench with 20 minutes to go. London Irish were beaten, however. He also played in a number of games in the Anglo-Welsh League and the European Conference cup competition.

The highlight of Gavin's season, however, was his selection for Scottish Districts against Australia, at McDiarmid Park, Perth, on 5th November. He was originally chosen to play on the wing but, because of the withdrawal of Michael Dods, he was moved to full back.

The game was played in torrential rain and, although the Scots were ahead by six points after 25 minutes from two penalties, they were down 8-6 at half-time. After an Australian try in the second half, Gavin decided to trap a long kick forward with his foot in his own 22, rather than risk handling the slippery ball, but he only succeeded in knocking it into the path of Joe Roff who aquaplaned over the line to score. David Campese came on as substitute in the second- half, which pleased Gavin, as Campese was one of his rugby heroes. The final score was a comfortable 25 points to 9 win for Australia, but the incessant, heavy rain and waterlogged conditions reduced the game to a scrappy affair.

Later in November, Gavin went with the Scottish Exiles to the Barrington's training camp in the Algarve, Portugal, for a week. The Exiles played the Spain and Portugal national teams, winning both games and beating Spain by 56 points to 12 in Seville. Gavin played at full-back in both matches.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Rugby Union resolved to eject the Exiles from the District Championship, as they had already decided that they would not be permitted to represent Scotland in the European Cup.

At the London Irish's AGM in July 1997, some supporters of the club expressed the view that all club players should be of Irish origin, otherwise the club would lose its integrity. The players did not support this point of view. Gavin had already been told that he was likely to receive a professional contract at the end of the season but, following the AGM, he was informed that the club felt that they would have put the decision on hold until the start of the 1997-98 season. He decided to leave.

Gavin enjoyed his time at London Irish but, all in all, it was not a very happy season for him, although a high spot was the game against Australia.

Kilmarnock RUFC and Glasgow District    kilmarnock.jpg - 8.3 KB

1997-98 Season

Gavin was offered and accepted a professional contract with Kilmarnock Rugby Club. Alastair McHarg, who had been his coach for the Scottish Exiles, had recommended to the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) that he receive a professional contract with Glasgow. However, he was unable to play in any trial for Glasgow for some weeks because of an ankle injury, but he was eventually offered and accepted a professional contract with the District side.

When he was not required by Glasgow, Gavin could turn out for Kilmarnock. He only managed to play seven games for Kilmarnock - four in the SRU Trophy against Biggar, Jedforest, Watsonians and Dundee HSFP, all of which were won by Kilmarnock, with Gavin scoring a try in the game against Dundee; two League games against Musselburgh and Biggar, losing the latter game by 25 points to 22, with Gavin again scoring a try; and one game in the Cup against Biggar, which Kilmarnock won 11-0.

He played five games for Glasgow. In the European Cup, he came off the bench against Swansea and Leicester, but Glasgow lost both games. Against Swansea, he came on as a replacement with ten minutes of the game left, so was unable to make any real impression. He played 55 minutes of the game against Leicester, coming on as a replacement for the injured Derek Stark; Glasgow lost this game by a then record margin for the European Cup competition, 90 points to 11, despite taking the lead with a try early in the game.

Gavin played in two of the Inter-District Championship games, both of which Glasgow won. He came on as a replacement at full-back against Edinburgh with 15 minutes left and made some excellent catches from high balls and made a tremendous head-on, try-saving tackle on a big forward in a one-on-one situation. His second game was against the South of Scotland, when he came on for an injured player after 15 minutes and played well.

He also played in a friendly against the Australian side, ACT, in early December on a miserable, wet and windy evening. Glasgow lost 22-6. Gavin played on the right wing, but had to come off for a short period to get three stitches in a head wound.

Gavin's last game that season was for Kilmarnock against Biggar in the Cup in December. He had to come off at half-time, as he was not feeling well. Within days, he was diagnosed as suffering from a prolapsed disc, which was not healing itself. Eventually, he was admitted to Ross Hall Hospital, a BUPA Hospital in Glasgow, where he underwent a discectomy, in which 90% of the bulging disc was removed; the operation was paid for by the SRU. Gavin was unable to play for the rest of the season and did not get his contract renewed by Glasgow.

Watsonians    watsonians.jpg - 352.5 KB

1998-1999 Season

Gavin continued to live in Portobello in Edinburgh and took up the position of marketing manager with the Scottish Daily Record in Glasgow. He started playing amateur rugby again when he signed for Watsonians of Edinburgh in February 1999. At the time, the Club was one of the favourites for relegation. By the end of the season, however, they were safe in Division 1 for the following season. Gavin made his debut against Glasgow Hawks and played every game afterwards. He must have played well because club members thanked him for his contribution in helping the Club to avoid relegation.

1999-2000 Season

Gavin remained with Watsonians for the following season, but he did not play many first team games. Although he lived in Portobello, he continued to work in Glasgow, and was, therefore, unable to make the twice-weekly training sessions. As a result, he was dropped to the Second XV and gave up playing seriously at the end of the season because of the travel problems. He did play in the pre-season Edinburgh Cup, when Watsonians reached the final, only to lose to Boroughmuir by 24 points to 5. Gavin's stay in Scotland did not live up to expectations. He found that the structure, training and attitude of players was less professional than in England and felt that his rugby had regressed prior to his injury.

Life after Rugby

Gavin eventually moved to live in Glasgow as he continued to work in the city, by this time as marketing manager for the Daily Mail. In May 2005, he was appointed as Head of Marketing and Sales for Johnson Press in the Northampton area. He left Glasgow to live in Mawsley, about three miles from Kettering and ten from Northampton.

He continued to keep fit through workouts at a local gym and cycling. He played the occasional game for Scottish Legends, a team of former Scottish Rugby internationals in friendly and charity matches.

Gavin eventually concentrated on cycling for fitness, completing two stages of the Tour de France. In May 2009, he cycled from Land's End to John o' Groats with two friends, completing the 900 or so miles in five days at an average of 17.5 miles per hour. He has now moved on to triathlons.

He left Johnson Press in November 2007 to become Regional Press Controller for Smith's News and is still working there. In August 2009, Gavin married Amanda Hamilton from Corby and they live in Mawsley in Northamptonshire with their two daughters.