Don White


Don White - Saints legend and England pioneer 21:29pm 26th April 2007

Bob Hiller tells an apocryphal tale about the first words of Don White at his opening training session in 1969 as England’s first official coach: ‘Right, lads, let’s start. I want you to take up your normal positions.’

In the two previous years, England had taken some fearful beatings, conceding 17 tries in games against Wales (twice), New Zealand and Australia.

So when Don said that, we shuffled off and stood behind the posts, waiting for the conversion,’ Hiller said. ‘Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

By the end of that week, England, under Hiller’s captaincy and White’s coaching, had beaten South Africa for the first time.

Coaching back then was as dirty a word as any Kenneth Tynan uttered on TV at round about the same time.

White pioneered squad training by picking 30 players, instead of 15. ‘This was really professional stuff, with a small ‘p’ of course,’ Hiller said. ‘Normally we’d chuck the ball about on the Friday, but then he’d organise training sessions at places like Leicester and we weren’t allowed to claim any petrol expenses.

A man ahead of his time who scored England’s first post-war try, against Wales in 1947, Don White died last weekend at 80. A Northampton legend, it was almost as if he couldn’t bear being at Franklin’s Gardens tomorrow in case it meant seeing the relegation of his beloved Saints, who could go down even if they beat London Irish.


Don White Sorely Missed

By Dave Barton

Former England international and RFU Senior Vice President Bob Taylor recently paid tribute to the first England coach Don White, saying: “He wasn't a big talker but you listened to what he said.”

White died on April 14 aged 80 after a lifetime devoted to rugby that saw him captain Northampton Saints, play for England and coach his country, including a win over South Africa at Twickenham in 1969.

British and Irish Lion Taylor, who played against the Springboks that day as one of his 16 caps and is now the RFU Council Member for the same East Midlands Constituent Body that White himself represented, said: “He was England's first coach - before that it was really the captain who made the decisions. Don was chosen because he was the most forward thinking rugby person in England at the time - he had no peer.”

White was a totemic figure at Franklin's Gardens, from the time he made his debut as a 16-year-old schoolboy in 1943 through spells as captain, coach and president to his final involvement with the running of the club in 1988. He was elected into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2005.

Taylor, who succeeded White in the Saints back row in 1962, said: “He was superb at reading a game and spotting individual talent and his knowledge of rugby was awesome. You could argue with Don and think you'd got your point across well but when you went away and thought about it, you knew that what he said made sense.”

RFU President Bob Rogers added: “Don was a genuine rugby person who always had time for you and would ask how things were. On behalf of the RFU, I would like to pass on our condolences to his family. He will be sorely missed.”



From The Times   TimesOnLine

 May 1, 2007

 Don White

 The first England rugby union coach, who ruffled feathers as the combative star of the 1950s Northampton team

When the Rugby Football Union appointed their first national coach, in 1969, they did so with a degree of trepidation. Many of those involved in the game believed it unnecessary, or that it introduced a professional approach, that most heinous of adjectives to administrators bathed in the amateur concept from birth.

In Don White, the Northampton and England flanker, the RFU chose an individual with a formidable reputation as a player and equally formidable in debate. He had played for Northampton as a 16-year-old prop and his thinking about rugby, built on more than a decade with a club that led the way in England in the 1950s, was based on the need for fluidity, efficiency and a winning culture.

There has been allowed to grow up a kind of mystique [about White],” U. A. Titley, then rugby correspondent of The Times, wrote drily, “especially among those whose main criterion is tough physical contact rather than skilled artistry.” Tough physical contact, of course, was one of the primary reasons why the home unions lost so frequently to the southern-hemisphere powers, hence the joy when White’s first England team beat South Africa at Twickenham.

Donald Frederick White was born in 1926 in Earls Barton, the Northamptonshire village that was home to the family shoemaking business for which he worked all his life, becoming chairman and managing director in 1965. He learnt his rugby at Wellingborough Grammar School but was turned down by the RAF in 1943 for aircrew training and joined the Northamptonshire Regiment instead.

He left the Army in 1948, by which time he had been capped by England as a 21-year-old in the first official postwar international, a 9-6 win over Wales in Cardiff in which White scored his side’s only try. It was the first of 14 caps over six years, an intermittent international career that suggested the selectors were reserved in their judgment of a player who played hard, too hard possibly, for their liking.

White was sent off while playing for East Midlands against Notts, Lincs and Derby in 1947 and he was overlooked for two Lions tours, to Australasia in 1950 and South Africa in 1955. Contemporaries, particularly those in Wales and Scotland, valued his abilities far more than those who chose representative teams.

His most consistent season was that of 1951-52 when he played in all five England matches, including the 8-3 defeat by the South Africa tour party that beat Scotland 44-0. White also captained the Midland Counties East to a 3-0 defeat against the Springboks, a game he believed should have been won: “The sadness was that, for the whole of that period of English rugby, the selectors took far more notice of the mistakes a player made, and were not nearly so interested in the things a player did well,” White said.

Before his retirement in 1961, he made 443 appearances for Northampton – a record second only to his contemporary, Ron Jacobs – and scored 930 points from 116 tries and his goal-kicking ability; he also captained the Saints for seven seasons and was the club’s president in their centenary season of 1979-80 though, during the internal upheaval Northampton went through after 1988, White distanced himself from events at Franklin’s Gardens.

He spent two years as England coach, a role for which his Northampton and England colleague, Jeff Butterfield, was also considered. His first action was to name a squad four months before the 1969 game against the Springboks, including Bob Hiller as captain, and to hold three training days.

We want to make the team more efficient, to play better football, to make the game more continuous. Above all, and this is important, it should make the game more enjoyable. Success is enjoyable, isn’t it?” Not everyone, especially those who believed in playing the game for the game’s sake, agreed with him and, of his 11 games in charge, only three were won.

But as a tactical thinker with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws, White was in advance of his time and, almost certainly, of his fellow members on the selection committee.

He remained abreast of the modern game, often combining business visits with overseas tours by England, and could always be relied upon for a combative view of the game.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and four children.

Don White, rugby player, coach and businessman, was born on January 16, 1926. He died on April 21, 2007, age 81


Saints legend Don White passes away

23 April 2007, 11:42 am

Don White, “probably the greatest ever Saintsman” according to David Powell, died on Saturday morning after a long illness, aged 80.

Don White (left) in action for the Saints

Don White (with ball) and the Saints team of 1949/50

For four-and-a-half decades Don White was a totemic figure at Franklin’s Gardens, as a player, captain, coach, administrator and president.

He made his Saints debut in 1943 as a 16 year-old schoolboy in a 17-3 defeat to Coventry on February 27, 1943. It was an inauspicious start to a glorious career that spanned 18 years, 448 appearances (placing him second in the all-time list), 116 tries and 930 points as well as 14 England caps.

Recommended to the Saints by RVS Ward, a “scared stiff” White began his Saints career at prop. But by the time of his England debut – in 1947 against Wales in Cardiff – he was firmly established as a flanker, where he would remain. Indeed White scored the try at the Arms Park that helped England achieve an unexpected 9-6 win.

His first season of captaincy came in 1949/50 and under his stewardship Saints began to build a team that would dominate English rugby for a decade. That season also included a first ever Northampton victory at Stradey Park, an ideal way to begin four straight seasons with the captain’s armband.

White also led the East Midlands and the Barbarians and had a reputation as a fiery player, about which he was unrepentant.

If a wing forward does not get some stick from an away crowd, he is not doing his job. You have to upset them,” he said.

But White also had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws, as former Chronicle and Echo rugby correspondent Michael Green wrote following the news of his retirement.

“More than one referee, I fancy, will sleep peacefully of a Friday night… Frequently senior referees have been known to ask White’s advice on some knotty points (after the match, of course, although White would be happy to advise during a game). Minor referees, called upon to control a match in which he is taking part, have been known to go pale and grab the Rugby Union handbook. And not without reason. For White takes advantage of every sub-clause.”

White also had an unrivalled appreciation of players and under his stewardship Saints not only became regarded as the best club in the land but also the home to men who would go on to become rugby legends – Ron Jacobs, Jeff Butterfield and Dickie Jeeps. Their zenith came at Franklin’s Gardens in October 1953 when a Cardiff side captained by Bleddyn Williams was defeated 22-9.

Two more seasons of captaincy followed in 1956 and 57 and White retired from playing in 1961, aged 35.

Before the end of the decade, the shoe boss from Earls Barton had also become renowned as a coach, becoming the first official England coach in 1969. Under White’s guidance England achieved a first ever victory over South Africa at Twickenham.

White left England in 1971 but remained involved in the sport by being on the Northampton committee, becoming president for the centenary season of 1979/80. His involvement in the running of the Saints ended in 1988.

White was among the first group of players to be elected into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2005 and helped open the Church’s Stand in 2002.

Saints players paid tribute on Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final by wearing black armbands. And there will be a minute’s silence before Saturday’s GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP match against London Irish at Franklin’s Gardens.

“Don White was probably the greatest ever Saintsman, as a player, administrator and captain,” said former Saints, England and British Lions prop David Powell. “He was certainly the first Saints legend. I was privileged to know him and count him as a friend for several decades. He was a fantastic leader when I first arrived at the club and great company in his latter days when we spent many happy hours in the Crooked Hooker.”

Saints chairman Keith Barwell and chief executive Allan Robson also paid tribute to White.

“Don was a true pillar of the club who transcended the amateur and professional eras of the game,” said Barwell. “He was one of the first legends elected into the Hall of Fame, not just because of his 448 appearances for the Saints but also his hard work put in behind the scenes across several decades.”

Robson said: “I was proud to know Don, not just in my work but also as a friend. No one knew more about rugby than Don and he had a fantastic understanding of the modern game. He will be sorely missed both at the club and as a man.”

Everyone at Northampton Saints send their condolences to Don White’s family.



Don White    Obituary,,2097134,00.html

The first coach of the England rugby team

Paul Stephens
Thursday June 7, 2007
The Guardian

Don White, who has died aged 81, was one of the giants of English rugby during the golden years of the amateur player, from the end of the second world war to the advent of today's professional game. As a player, he made 448 appearances for Northampton before his retirement at the age of 35. In 1969, he became the first coach of the England team, and in his opening match in December 1969 saw his team notch up a first win over South Africa, 11-8, at Twickenham.

Former Northampton colleague Bob Taylor said: "Don was chosen because he was the most forward-thinking coach in England. He was superb at reading a game and spotting individual talent." None the less, it was a difficult period for the national side, and White's two seasons in charge saw just two further wins and a draw in 11 matches.

White was born in Earls Barton, the Northamptonshire village that was home to the family shoe business for which he worked all his life, becoming managing director and chairman in 1964. He made his debut for Northampton as a 17-year-old prop against Coventry in 1943, while still a pupil at Wellingborough grammar school. The match ended in a defeat by 17-3. White was recommended to the club by RVS Ward, his history teacher, and both were in the side. "I was scared stiff," admitted White. "I was a strong lad for my age, but I used to spend holidays at a farm at Mears Ashby. I thought I'd get a fearful hiding, but I emerged unscathed."

At the time the affairs of the Saints, as the Northampton club is known, were looked after by Gordon Sturtridge, a surgeon at Northampton general hospital. White's name was pencilled into his black book as a player of considerable potential, and he became the most influential figure at the club's Franklin's Gardens ground for more than 40 years until the internal upheaval at the club in 1988. White, who had been president for the centenary season in 1979-80, was bitter at being ousted from the committee.

White's debut for England came when normal international fixtures resumed after the war in 1947, with a game against Wales at Cardiff on January 18. He scored a try as a flanker, collecting a cross-field kick to set England on the way to victory in a surprising 9-6 win. He was to play 13 more times for England, between 1947 and 1953, though surprisingly he never made a tour for the British Lions. For Northampton he scored 116 tries, 71 penalties, 183 conversions and a dropped goal, for a total of 930 points.

He took over as captain from Ronnie Knapp in 1954; during his seven seasons in the role, Northampton were an extremely effective side, with Jeff Butterfield, Dickie Jeeps and Ron Jacobs appearing for England. White also led the East Midlands in the annual Mobbs memorial match against the Barbarians, and took them to victory in the county championship against Middlesex in 1951.

White received the Queen's award for export achievement in 1990 and was president of the Northampton male voice choir. He is survived by his wife Barbara, two sons and two daughters.

· Donald Frederick White, rugby player and coach, born January 16 1926; died April 21 2007



The Independent

Don White
First England rugby union coach
Published: 07 May 2007

Donald Frederick White, rugby player and coach: born Earls Barton, Northamptonshire 16 January 1926; married (two sons, two daughters); died Earls Barton 21 April 2007.

Don White was the most forward-thinking rugby man in England in the Sixties and was given the responsibility of becoming England's first national coach as a result. An ex-international himself, he made as big an impact in his first game in charge as coach as he had done as a player in the Test arena.

His England début on the field had been in the first post-war international against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park on 18 January 1947, when he scored the opening try of a 9-6 win. His first match as England coach saw his team notch a first win over South Africa, 11-8, at Twickenham on 20 December 1969.

White was a fast learner and made his début for Northampton in a Midlands derby against Coventry at the age of 17 while still at Wellingborough Grammar School. He played for his school's old boys' side before devoting the remainder of his playing career to Northampton.

Having started off in the front row, he made his name, and a considerable impact on many opponents, as an uncompromising back-row forward who won 14 caps between 1947 and 1953. "If a wing forward does not get some stick from an away crowd, he is not doing his job," was White's candid view. "You have to upset them."

He played 448 games for the Saints, scoring 116 tries and 930 points. As well as being a try scorer, White was also a more-than-useful goal kicker, as his 600-plus points with the boot for his club proved.

Having made his first appearance against a touring team when he kicked two penalties for the Saints in their 11-6 defeat by New Zealand Services in 1945, he went on to play against all the major Test teams. He was in the Leicestershire and Midlands Combined XV that went down 17-11 to the Australians at Welford Road in 1947 and four years later he led the Midland Counties against the South Africans at the same venue, losing 3-0. A week later, he was in the England team that fell 8-3 at Twickenham.

In 1954, he was in the Barbarians team that met the All Blacks in their last tour match at Cardiff Arms Park, this time going down 19-5, while he scored the only points, a penalty, in the Leicestershire/East Midlands' 18-3 defeat by the Australians at Welford Road in 1957.

He saved the best for last, in his final season, when he scored the try that helped Leicestershire and East Midlands to draw 3-3 with the Springboks in 1960 - one of only two games in 28 outings throughout the UK and Ireland they failed to win.

His seven seasons as captain at Northampton saw the club become one of the most feared teams in the country. Jeff Butterfield, Dickie Jeeps and Ron Jacobs became England caps and White also led the East Midlands for nine seasons in the annual match against the Barbarians in the Mobbs Memorial Match.

He was in the East Midlands sides that lost the County Championship finals of 1950 and 1953, but led the team that beat Middlesex to clinch the title 10-0 at Northampton in 1951.

Having retired at the age of 35, White turned his hand to coaching and became England's first appointed coach in 1969. He spent two seasons at the helm, although after that historic winning start against the Springboks there were only two more wins and one draw to savour in 11 games that also encompassed the RFU's centenary season celebrations.

"He was superb at reading a game and spotting individual talent and his knowledge of rugby was awesome," Bob Taylor, the Northampton and England forward, said. "You could argue with Don and think you'd got your point across well, but when you went away and thought about it, you knew that what he said made sense."

White, who was a director of his family's shoe firm, worked on the Northampton committee when he left the England post and was president for their centenary season in 1979/80.

Rob Cole





Tributes flow for White

 By Rob Wildman

 Last Updated: 1:20am BST 26/04/2007

A memorial service for Don White, the first coach of England, will be held on May 4 following the death of the renowned rugby figure at the age of 80. The service at All Saints Church, Earls Barton, Northamptonshire at 1pm, will record the career of White which brought 448 appearances for Northampton, 14 for England and then the distinction of becoming the first coach of the national team in an era when the captain made all the key decisions. Bob Taylor, the senior vice president of the Rugby Football Union and a former Northampton and England colleague, paid tribute to White who was appointed England coach in 1969 and guided the country to a first success over South Africa at Twickenham. Taylor said: "Don was chosen because he was the most forward-thinking rugby person in England at the time - he had no peer." White stepped down as coach in 1971 and then went to be a lead off-field figure at Northampton.  "He was a true pillar of the club who transcended the amateur and professional eras," Keith Barwell, the club's owner, said. White's own first-class career started at the age of 16. He began at prop, but made his name as a flanker and once commented: "If a wing forward does not get some stick from the home crowd, he is not doing his job. You have to upset them." Taylor, who succeeded White in the Northampton team, said he had an "awesome" knowledge of rugby. "He was superb at reading a game and spotting individual talent. You could argue with Don and think you'd got your point across well but when you went away and thought about it, you knew that what he said made sense."