The RFU have paid tribute to Mike Slemen, the 1980 England Grand Slam winner who has passed away at the age of 69. Slemen was also part of the British and Irish Lions squad that toured South Africa that same year and his teammate Bill Beaumont – the current World Rugby chairman – described him as “a great rugby player and a great all-round sportsman.

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“He gave so much to the game in his playing days, as a club and England coach and as director of sport at Merchant Taylors School, Crosby. He will be very much missed as someone whose generous spirit and outstanding athleticism graced our sport. Our thoughts are with his wife, Eileen, and his family.”

Born in Liverpool, where he played his club rugby, Slemen was an outstanding England and Lions player, with a total of 31 caps for his country, retiring as England’s most-capped wing after the match at Murrayfield in February 1984.

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A pivotal part of Beaumont’s side that won the 1980 Grand Slam, his silken running and change of pace were inspirational.

Educated at St Edward’s College, Liverpool, where he was a fast bowler in the cricket XI who played Sunday League football and as first XV scrum-half, he made his international debut in March 1976 vs Ireland at Twickenham. He also played for Devon in the County Championship during his student days at St Luke’s College, Exeter, with his first national appearance in his final year, for England U23s against the touring Tongans.

A teaching post at Merchant Taylors took him home to his Liverpool club and selection for Lancashire and the North. Playing for the Northern Division, he was part of the squad who beat the All Blacks 21-9 in 1979 at Otley where he scored the game’s decisive try.

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The core of England’s 1980 Grand Slam team was built on the Northern squad and Slemen was on the scoresheet in the Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield, his nation’s first championship clean sweep since 1957.

Ten of the Grand Slam side went to South Africa with the Lions in 1980, under the captaincy of Beaumont, the first Englishman to lead the tourists for 50 years. A Test starter in Cape Town, Slemen was described by Reg Sweet of the Durban Daily News as “unquestionably the most talented all-rounder of all”.

He played his last first-class match in May 1986, captaining Liverpool against Preston Grasshoppers in the last game before the club merged with St Helen’s. He went on to coach at the club before coaching the England backs in 1994 as part of Geoff Cooke’s management team.

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