Fylde RFC great Bill Beaumont receives a ‘humbling’ knighthood

Fylde RFC icon Bill Beaumont
Fylde RFC icon Bill Beaumont

Fylde RFC legend Bill Beaumont said he was stunned when told of his knighthood in the New Year Honours.

The 66-year-old former Fylde, England and British Lions skipper joins fellow rugby knights such as England’s 2003 World Cup-winning mastermind Sir Clive Woodward, Scotsman Sir Ian McGeechan and former Wales scrum-half Sir Gareth Edwards.

“I was very proud when I got the envelope three or four weeks ago saying I was being recommended for a knighthood,” he said.

“It was very official, not the normal envelope I would receive.

“I just thought ‘wow!’ To think that I would be mentioned alongside the great sports people who have been knighted was very humbling.”

Beaumont, who is recognised for services to rugby, led England to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1980 and also captained the British and Irish Lions in South Africa later that year.

He has served as Rugby Football Union chairman and was elected chairman of World Rugby in 2016.

Beaumont paid tribute to his wife Hilary – “my rock and inspiration” – and his rugby-playing sons Daniel, Sam and Josh.

“Rugby is part of our family,” said Beaumont, who will celebrate his knighthood by watching once-capped England forward Josh play for Sale Sharks in their Gallagher Premiership fixture at Gloucester on Saturday.

“It would not have been possible without my wife, who must have watched more games of rugby than any other woman in this country.

“I’ve just enjoyed being part of the rugby family, first as a player and then as an administrator.

“I was lucky enough to captain my country and the Lions, and I have been fortunate to be in a position to give back to the sport I love.”

Beaumont won 34 caps for England and was skipper 21 times during an international career that spanned seven years.

He made his Test debut in 1975, taking over as England captain three years later, while he also led the North of England to victory over the 1979 New Zealand All Blacks.

After leading England to Grand Slam glory - the Red Rose’s first Five Nations clean sweep for 23 years - he led the Lions in South Africa, where a dominant Springboks side won the Test series 3-1.

He also toured with the 1977 Lions to New Zealand after being called up as an injury replacement, and was the 2005 Lions tour manager, also in New Zealand.

Beaumont retired from rugby in 1982, and he soon became a popular face on the BBC’s ‘A Question of Sport’, becoming a long-serving team captain.

He has also enjoyed a successful career in rugby administration, initially representing England on the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) from 1999, and he became RFU chairman in 2012.

Beaumont succeeded Frenchman Bernard Laporte as chairman of World Rugby two years ago and was previously awarded a CBE in 2008.

He added: “I have always viewed my work in the sport as an administrator as that of a guardian, driven by a passion to do the very best I can for rugby and the people who give up their time every week on the touchlines at rugby clubs around the world to inspire new generations of players, supporters and volunteers.

“I am honoured and humbled to receive this accolade. It is as much recognition for them and all who work in the sport as it is for me.”