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Clive Sullivan- Rugby’s First Black Captain

Clive A. Sullivan MBE (born 9 April 1943 in Cardiff, died 8 October 1985 in Hull) was a Welsh rugby union and professional Rugby League World Cup winning footballer of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A Great Britain and Wales international winger, he played with both Hull and Hull Kingston Rovers in his career, and also played for Oldham, and Doncaster. He was the first black captain of the Great Britain Lions and for any national British sporting side.

Whilst growing up in the Splott district of Cardiff as a young teenager, he required operations on his knees, feet and shoulders. Due to the extent of these operations, a rugby career seemed unlikely. Sullivan never gave up, however, and he overcame his early childhood trauma by being granted a trial by Bradford Northern Rugby League Club at the age of just 17. Bradford however, passed on the young winger.

Rugby league club Hull, had different ideas about Sullivan and gave the young man, who boasted phenomenal speed, a chance to play rugby league. In his debut for Hull, Sullivan had an outstanding game and gained the support of the Hull club and city. Sullivan became known for his exceptional speed and the way he would outplay rugby league’s finest opposition wingers. His upper-body was deceptively strong which gave him excellent cover defence. Despite his knees which haunted his childhood requiring constant attention and further operations, he played a total of 352 games for Hull, scoring 250 tries. In his 213 games for Hull K.R. he scored 118 tries.

His international career took him to great heights having made his debut for Great Britain in 1967. The following year he played three World Cup matches, grabbing a hat-trick against New Zealand. In 1969, he toured Australasia, but only participated in one game due to injury. He however won a further three test caps against New Zealand in 1971. In 1972 he was handed the captaincy of Great Britain and played two tests against France. The World Cup took place that same year, and he captained Great Britain to become world champions. He scored a try in each of Great Britain’s four games. Sullivan scored possibly the most famous try in the history of the World Cup to level 10-10 against Australia in the final, after a length of the field run.

Thank you Clive Sullivan for your contribution to sports as a Black athlete!

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