Duncan Walsh is a high school English teacher who hails from England. We sat down together and talked about his experience playing rugby.
How old were you when you started playing rugby?
I was twelve years old.
What inspired you to start playing?
It was probably my dad. I remember watching the Grand Slam with him. We’d watch all the England games together. My dad is very proud of his Irish roots, so he always supported the Celtic Nations —even when they played against England. I was always amazed by his passionate reaction to the events of the game. I had never seen my dad so animated before that. It really inspired me.
Another thing is that I’m very small; only 5ft and 5 inches (165 cm). My dad told me the great thing about rugby is that there is a position for everybody. For example, props are short but stocky, second-row forwards are tall, number eights are a combination of the two, and scrum halves are usually the smallest guys on the pitch. I saw that there were all different body shapes on a rugby team —which you don’t often see in other sports. And of course, watching a small guy take down a big guy really inspired me.
What position did you play the most?
Scrum half, and then winger.
Which position do you prefer?
Probably scrum half. This is because when you play scrum half, you’re always involved…as well as protected by the forwards (chuckles).
A scrum half is the first person to pick up the ball and must decide whether to kick, pass or run with it. The scrum half is arguably the most important decision maker on the team.
Please give our readers a summary of your playing career.
My secondary school rugby team was the best that the school had ever had. And that remains true to this day. I went to a small state school in Norfolk, and we were the county champions three years in a row. As a result of winning the Norfolk County Championship, we played in the Daily Mail Cup, which was the national rugby tournament for secondary schools in England during those days. All the county champions entered it. Nearly all the schools that entered the tournament were well-funded, private schools. My school, however, was a state school.
How did your team go in the tournament?
Our first game was against St. Joseph’s College. This game was the most memorable event from my sporting life. We got on the bus and drove to St. Joseph’s College, which was a long journey from our school. When we got there, we saw this huge, impressive, 200-year-old looking building. There was a massive field with a beautiful rugby pitch in front of the school. It was a big game, so all the students came out to watch. We were intimidated by the obvious wealth of the school.
Immediately after starting the game, they scored, and we soon found ourselves two tries down. We thought we were going to get hammered. But we had this guy, Nick Francis. He was the thinnest guy on our team, albeit with a secret weapon —he was a superb tackler. When the captain and center of St. Joseph’s College charged at Nick, he (Nick) dump-tackled the captain. I remember hearing the crowd roar in disbelief. That moment changed the game. It gave us belief, and we won the game, scoring three tries to two.
Have you ever played alongside someone who became a well-known rugby player?
When I played for Norfolk under fifteens right through to Norfolk under eighteens, a certain player called Dan Hipkiss, who comes from Diss in Norfolk, also played for those teams. He was the captain and center, and I was the scrum half. For four years in a row, I got to play alongside him. He was the best sportsman that I’ve ever played alongside. He was just out of this world. Every year we played against Suffolk, Essex, and Cambridgeshire. We beat all those teams by forty points every single match. And I’m not joking, this was primarily thanks to Dan Hipkiss. You could pass him the ball, and he would just score. He was phenomenal. He went on to play for Bath, Leicester, and then England in the 2007 world cup final.
Did you get any injuries during your time playing rugby?
No, I didn’t. I was very lucky.
Who were your biggest inspirations?
Shane Williams, because he is one of the smallest guys that has ever played professional rugby—and one of the most talented. For England, Jason Robinson. He was small and fast with an amazing sidestep, so I modelled myself on him too.
Do you have anything to say to Japanese Rugby fans?
Japan has a very powerful team, and this power comes from its sense of group mentality. So, when the Japanese people play as a team, they will always be at their strongest. Therefore, they should always believe in their own power as a team.
state school 公立学校
secondary school 中学校
private school 私立学校
out of this world 壮大 （な）
group mentality 集団心理