A true West Country legend

Phil Westren of the Cornish Pirates pays tribute to a sporting great.

Formal portrait in England strip. He won 25 caps

A true West Country sporting legend, Brian ‘Stack’ Stevens, died on Tuesday evening, aged 77.

Born on January 2, 1940, the youngest of six children, Stack was educated at Leedstown ‘High’ School and Cornwall Technical College.

He first played for the Pirates ‘Mounts Bay Colts’ team in 1956, while his 1st XV debut for Penzance and Newlyn RFC was against RAF Coastal Command in November 1958.

Besides playing more than 500 games for the Pirates, including being an influential team member when the Cornwall KO Cup was won for the first time in 1976, Stack made 83 appearances for Cornwall.

He won 25 caps for England, having made his debut versus South Africa at Twickenham in 1969, and was an England selector too.

Stack Stevens (second Lion on the left) shields Gareth Edwards for the British Lions in 1971

Highlights when wearing the red rose and white shirt of England included historic away wins against South Africa in 1972 (on a tour when he was skipper for the game against Griqualand West) and against the All Blacks in 1973.

Scoring a try in the 16-10 victory against New Zealand at Eden Park was truly special, as England became the first of the four home countries to beat the All Blacks on New Zealand soil. Another momentous moment in Stack’s international career was playing Ireland away in 1973, when courageous England shrugged off the threat of IRA violence and ran out to a thunderous and sustained ovation at Lansdowne Road.

British Lions New Zealand Tour

Playing for England against the All Blacks in 1973

A memorable honour for Stack was when he received a call-up and played for the British Lions on their victorious tour of New Zealand in 1971.

He also played for the Barbarians, the Penquins, Harlequins, and Combined Counties teams.

In his working life he was a busy farmer.

As a player, honours bestowed upon Stack were richly deserved. His exploits made the whole of Cornwall feel proud.

Deservedly made a Life Member of Penzance and Newlyn RFC, he was last year present at a ‘Tribute Night to Stack’ event at the Westholme clubhouse, providing recognition of what he achieved as one of Cornwall’s greatest ever sportsmen.

It was much enjoyed by a large gathering that included many former Pirates, county players, officials and friends, among them his former England captain John Pullin.

Stack with the Mounts bay Colts in 1957

During the evening copies of Steve Tomlin’s book Stack Stevens – Cornwall’s Rugby Legend were on sale.
Stack had suffered from a rare and serious neurological condition in recent years, and he displayed heroic stoicism and courage to battle against it.

Ahead of the Tribute event, the late Don Rutherford OBE, a former England player who was also the first technical director at the RFU, had said: “Stack was a world-class front-row forward, who in the loose resembled a back-row forward and in this ca- pacity he was far ahead of his time.

“His outstanding rugby career has, however, been eclipsed by the courage he has shown throughout his illness.”

Everyone who knew Stack would echo Don’s words.

One and all will wish to express condolences to Stack’s wife Jane, sons Sam and John (who is a member of the Cornish Pirates squad), family members and close friends.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.