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David Malcolm Rollitt - 24 March 1943 -17 December 2022

University of Bristol Rugby Club regret to announce the death of one of the clubs greatest ever players David Malcolm Rollitt.

David studied Physics in the ’60’s and was the captain of the University side that were victorious at the UAE 7's and also played for the winning University XV in the UAU championship in 1962 in his first year at the university. While David played for UBRFC he was selected for Western Counties side who faced the mighty New Zealand All Blacks.

David went onto to play for and captain Bristol Rugby being capped 415 times and scoring and incredible 101 tries from back row, which earnt him to be selected by the Barbarians an impressive 16 times. In 1967 David was capped by England v Ireland which led to 11 further caps with many saying it should have been much more. David loved his time at the University and he donated his England shirt to the University which can be found in the Coombe Dingle pavilion.

Bob Reeves described David as a "wonderful rugby player who for Played for the University for 3 years, he was a wonderful man who has been seen at many of our Alumni dinners in London. I got to know him well in 1964, when he arrived at Loughborough to take the one-year Post-Graduate course in P E. He then returned to teach in Bristol (Colstons School) and he went on to have a distinguished rugby career for Bristol, Gloucestershire and England".

David's connection with the club didn't just end there as David went onto lead the Past and Present XV in front of 2,000 people at Coombe Dingle who narrowly lost against the Alec Lewis international XV who at the time was the president of the RFU.

As a mark of respect and to show our appreciation of David life and contribution to the club the annual 1st XV Maroon fixture against the Royal Navy will be now known as the David Rollitt match and both teams will be playing for the Rollitt cup. The Maroon XV and the Imperial XV will also hold a minutes silence before their January 14th fixtures away at Oxford.

UBRFC supporter and regular Mark Hoskins wrote an obituary for David on the Bristol Bears website (link at the bottom) and here are some words from Mark taken from that piece:

"After leaving Bristol he trained as a teacher at Loughborough Colleges. He appeared on a winning side for Loughborough against Bristol, before returning to the city to take up an appointment teaching mathematics at Colston’s School.

Dave Rollitt made his Bristol debut against Metropolitan Police on Easter Tuesday 1964. He was awarded his cap in 1966 and his blazer two years later. In total he made 415 first team appearances, scoring 101 tries. In the 1965-66 season he scored what was then a club record for a forward of 20 tries in a season. He was appointed captain in 1969-70 and continued in this role the following season. Anxious to concentrate on developing his own game, he was instrumental in having Peter Colston appointed as the club’s first official coach, and the pair worked superbly together in moulding what was to become a great Bristol side in the early 1970s. In 1973 he was a member of the first Bristol side to reach a Twickenham cup final.

An unforgettable figure on the rugby field with his prematurely white hair and his all-action style of play, Dave Rollitt was speedy in attack and a superb tackler in defence. He was also supremely fit and adopted a ‘professional’ attitude to training and fitness in an era when such an approach was not always encouraged. He featured in numerous England trials but was capped just eleven times by his country, a ludicrously small number for a man with his talents. Many felt that he would have made a brilliant England captain. He made his England debut against Ireland in 1967, retaining his place for the entire Five Nations Championship before going on England’s tour of Canada. He was then mysteriously overlooked until 1969, when he won a further four caps and scored a brilliant try against France, scooping the ball up in one hand before powering over the line. Unbelievably, he won no further caps after this until 1975, when he played against Scotland before winning his final two caps on England’s tour of Australia. He had previously been considered as a possible candidate to captain England in South Africa in 1972, but he was not allowed to tour as Colston’s School disapproved of sporting ties with an apartheid regime.

David was a regular player for Gloucestershire, making 73 appearances in total, often as captain, and featuring in six County Championship finals. He also made sixteen appearances for the Barbarians. He was a member of the Western Counties side which defeated Australia at Bristol in 1967 and played for the South & South West Counties team which beat Australia at Bath in 1973. He captained Western Counties at Bristol in a drawn game against South Africa in 1969, and he also led Western Counties to victory against Fiji at Gloucester in 1970. In 1971 the South & South West played an RFU President’s XV in Bristol as part of the RFU’s Centenary celebrations, and David was again captain for this match. He also faced New Zealand in Bristol as a member of the South of England XV in 1967, and he played for Western Counties against Australia, again at the Memorial Ground, in 1975.

Dave Rollitt’s final Bristol home game was a disappointingly heavy defeat to Gloucester in April 1977, but his last match of all for the club was a few weeks later when Selection Bassin were beaten on a tour of France. After this he left the city to take up a post at St Paul’s School in London. He played for Richmond for two seasons and also appeared for Middlesex, before coaching at both club and representative level in the London and South East area. He also featured as a guest player for Zebre in 1978. His son, Eben, was a Bristol player in the 1990s.

David kept in close touch with many of his former Bristol colleagues. He frequently attended reunions and was most recently seen back in May when there was a gathering to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the club’s great 1971-72 season. He will always be acknowledged as a Bristol Legend, and the sincere sympathy of all at University of Bristol and Bristol Bears goes to his family and friends at this very sad time."

Details of David funeral will be released in the coming days, should you want to attend please email club manager Olly Slym - who will be able to share that information with you.

All our thoughts and well wishes go out to David's family at the time,

He was a true Bristol Man!

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