Rugby-Influential former RFU president Morgan dies at 88

Former England rugby player Derek Morgan attends Rugby Union Writers' Club Dinner & Awards in London

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Former England Number Eight and influential and innovative RFU selector and president Derek Morgan, died on Friday at the age of 88, his family said in a statement.

Morgan was born at Newport, Monmouthshire and played for Wales Schoolboys before being selected for England through his parentage while at university in Durham. He made his debut in 1960, helping the unbeaten team to share the Five Nations title with France.

His international career was cut short after nine caps by a serious knee injury after a car accident the following year but he defied doctors' orders to return to play club rugby for another 12 seasons at Newbridge.

He described the highlight of his career as scoring a try in the Barbarians' Cardiff victory over the Grand Slam winning South Africans in 1961 - their only defeat in a 34-match tour.

A dentist in the then-strictly amateur days of rugby union, Morgan became an England selector in the late 1970s, helping build the team around captain Bill Beaumont who won the country's first grand slam for 23 years in 1980.

He later played a key role in helping England to finally mount a sustained challenge to the southern hemisphere nations by helping establish the autumn international series.

He became president of the RFU for 2002-03, where his strong Welsh accent often caught out visiting officials meeting him for the first time.

England won all 10 of their games during his presidency period, culminating in the memorable away victories over New Zealand and Australia in 2003 that set them up for their World Cup triumph later in the year.

Morgan died peacefully at home on Friday. He is survived by Ruth, his wife of 60 years, three children and six grandchildren.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge)