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Tributes pour in for Jimmy D

He touched the lives of everyone that he met, says Irish hero Willie

By Gavin Mairs

Tributes came flooding into today for Jimmy Davidson, the former Ulster and Ireland coach, who has died at the age of 64.

Davidson, latterly a superb columnist with the Belfast Telegraph for six years, won six caps for Ireland as a flanker and coached the national side between 1987 and 1990 - the last Ulsterman to do so.

If his international record was hampered by the fact there were those in the IRFU who weren't on the same wavelength in terms of his radical, progressive and ahead-of-his time coaching philosphies, it was Davidson's outstanding record with Ulster that will be long remembered.

He took over the province in 1983 and after a tricky start, with defeats to Connacht and Leinster, following a last-gasp victory over Munster, Davidson went on to inspire a new generation of Ulster stars, many of whom he had coached at Queen's University.

Many of those players would go on and feature for Ireland, most memorably in the 1985 Triple Crown triumph, which featured six Ulstermen in the starting line-up.

Willie Anderson, who was one of the key members of the Ulster side that went on to dominate the Inter-provincial series and was appointed captain of Ireland during Davidson's reign as national coach, said Jimmy would be greatly missed.

"I still remember getting his autograph while he was playing for Dungannon and little did I know that I would go on to play with him in the back row and of course be coached by him at Ulster and Ireland," said Anderson.

"He was way ahead of his time, a superb coach who never stopped thinking about the game and whose methods were adopted 20 years later.

"It was his passion for life that was outstanding, matched only for his love of his family and of rugby football.

"He cared for his players and would help anyone out, whether you were a schoolboy or an international.

"We had a great crop of players at that time with Ulster and he recognised that and let us play."

A famous insight into Davidson's lateral thinking came when Anderson led the Ireland side into confronting the New Zealand haka at Lansdowne Road in 1989.

"Jimmy questioned why the Ireland crowd should applaud the Haka and not their own team," added Anderson.

"So we came up with a plan to challenge that.

"He was a great man who touched the lives of all those he met."

Ulster and Ireland flanker Nigel Carr, a team-mate of Anderson's, also described Davidson, above all, as a great friend.

"The Ulster success that he had stands tribute to him," said Carr.

"I suppose I remember him as not just a rugby coach but also as a friend and mentor.

"He was a tremendous character. He was great fun, he was passionate about the game, he was honourable dealing with the players and I was pleased to have him as a friend."

Ulster, Ireland and British Lions legend Willie John McBride, who played against Davidson many times at club level and alongside side him with Ulster and Ireland, said: "He was a great rugby man who gave a tremendous part of his life to rugby.

"His contribution to Dungannon, Ulster and Ireland was immense. He was a guy who was 100 per cent.

"I played with him in the Ulster team and he was a 100 per cent player, he was a winner. He hated losing."

Jimmy, who lost his battle with cancer, was as passionate about writing his column as he was his coaching and spent hours in preparation. We'll all miss you.

See Page 28

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