Former England and Bath rugby union coach Jack Rowell dies at 87

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By Creative Media News

  • Jack Rowell, former England and Bath coach, dies at 87
  • Led England to Five Nations Grand Slams in 1995, 1996
  • Coached Bath to five league titles, eight cup wins

Steve Borthwick has led tributes to Jack Rowell, the former England and Bath head coach, on his passing at 87. From 1994 to 1997, Rowell coached England, leading the team to 21 victories in 29 Tests and reaching the 1995 World Cup semifinals.

Under Rowell’s supervision, players like Will Carling, Jeremy Guscott, and Rob Andrew thrived, and England won the Five Nations Grand Slam in 1995 and 1996. Rowell was appointed by the Rugby Football Union following a successful 16-year coaching career at Bath. He led the West Country club to five league crowns and eight knockout cup victories.

In a statement, Bath Rugby said: “It is with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of former Bath Rugby head coach and club president Jack Rowell on Monday, July 1.” At 6ft 7in, Jack Rowell was a towering presence in Bath and English rugby history, a one-of-a-kind man whose astonishing exploits as a visionary, shrewd strategist, and inspirational coach will never be matched.

“From his debut in the summer of 1978 until his retirement at the end of another trophy-laden season in 1994 to coach England, Jack had set about developing and maintaining an unstoppable force in domestic rugby. On behalf of everyone at Bath Rugby, we send our heartfelt sympathies to Jack’s family and friends during this sad time. “Rest in peace, Jack.”

Rowell, a gigantic 6ft 6in lock whose playing career was cut short by injury, referred to Bath as a “family,” and it was during his progressive 16-year stint at the Recreation Ground that he formed his best rugby memories. “Bathing was part of my daily routine. “Every year, we’d either win something or be extremely disappointed if we didn’t,” he stated after retiring from rugby.

Rowell returned to the Recreation Ground as rugby director in 2002, working alongside Steve Borthwick, the current England head coach and a former Bath captain. “We are saddened to hear of Jack Rowell’s passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” Borthwick told

“As a Bath player, I had the luxury of working with him while he was director of rugby. He had a lasting effect on me, not only as a rugby expert but also as a wonderful person. His contributions to English rugby were significant and will be greatly missed.”

A drawn series in South Africa began his England tenure, and the following year, a Carling-led England achieved the Five Nations grand slam. Rowell inherited Geoff Cooke’s period mainstays, including Carling, Jeremy Guscott, Dean Richards, and several Bath dynasty heroes.

For the second Test against the Springboks, five players from the Recreation Ground were named to the starting XV, with another five on the bench. By the time the 1995 World Cup arrived, those numbers had thinned, and Carling was still in charge, boosted by Rowell’s astute man-management. The Oxford University politics, philosophy, and economics graduate was cantankerous and prickly, but he understood when to push the correct buttons.

A potential World Cup peaked with a last-gasp quarter-final victory over Australia. Still, New Zealand devastated England the following round, as Jonah Lomu went on a rampage in Cape Town.

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Another Five Nations victory followed in 1996, and a year later, England placed second to France. Still, despite his success, Hartlepool-born Rowell resigned in August 1997 after rejecting his contract renewal. Under pressure to transition from part-time to full-time employment, he chose to concentrate on his outstanding business career, including chairmanships at several high-profile companies in the public and private sectors.

Rowell was soon back playing the game he enjoyed. His business and rugby experience were required at financially troubled Bristol, where he served on the board. Still, the pull of Bath, which he famously called an “umbilical cord,” was powerful, and in 2002, he returned as director of rugby to a club on the verge of relegation.
After a difficult campaign, they advanced to the Premiership final in 2004, when Wasps barely defeated them.

Bath’s glory days were far gone, and even Rowell’s magic couldn’t recreate the success of the 1980s and 1990s when he managed five league crowns and eight cup wins that left competitors flailing.

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