Just prior to this season beginning three stalwarts of Taunton RFC – Jack Mathews, Jerry Winter and Richard Walford – sat down to pick their best post-War Taunton XV. Each home game this season we’ll be putting forward their selections of the outstanding players position by position from the last 70 years. Do you agree with them?
Week Five: Blindside Flanker
The panel quickly reached their verdict about the best three picks for the back row but then deliberated about who to put in which positon. Ultimately they settled on three who would be a fine unit across the back row of the scrum. Former Somerset captain Andy Oaten came into the discussion. There was “nothing to him size-wise, but he got all over the park” said Richard. Then the talk switched to Robin ‘Joner’ Jones for whom there was a lot of respect but the selectors had a feeling that although he would always give one hundred percent, he was a little selfish with the ball. “He’d give hundred percent,” laughed Jerry, “but he wouldn’t give anyone the
ball!” From the current Titans side, Ratu Vakalutukali is long-serving, having been at the club for over a decade and nearing 150 caps. “He’s got the X-factor,” says Jack, meaning not that he’d appear on television singing pop songs but rather that he can pop up anywhere on the field. In fact, in his first season in the Titans he more often played at centre. The credentials that saw Taunton’s ever-popular Royal Marine, 'Toots', get the nod from our panel on one side of the back row were that he can run 100 yards with the ball, he beats people, he tackles ferociously and he has a phenomenal work rate.
Week Six: Openside Flanker
The openside who has probably gone on to do the most after representing Taunton is probably Andy Robinson, who was born in the town, played for Bath and England, was a British and Irish Lions tourist and coached England and Scotland. His time in the senior ranks was quite short-lived, however, limited to just 20 or so caps before he moved to the Rec and the panel opted for someone who had more impact for TRFC. From the current side Charlie Wright has many admirers too for his whole-hearted athleticism.
Mick Reece (247 caps) was variously described by the selectors as fit, mean, tough and a good skipper who would lead by example. He was a Royal Marine from 40 Commando who represented Somerset, the Navy and the Combined Services and went on to play for Bristol. So fit, in fact, was Reece that he was the trainer to the Royal Marines’ own Physical Training Instructors. With fellow Royal Marine Toots on the other side of the scrum, the selectors were happy that the flankers played left and right rather than blindside and openside.