Oxford player dies


TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to Oxford University rugby union centre Ian Tucker who died from head injuries sustained in a game on Saturday.

The 23 year old student died at London's National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery on Sunday evening after being injured attempting a try saving tackle in a friendly against first division club Saracens.

The South African born, Sydney University graduate had been taken initially to Chase Farm Hospital in London suffering from concussion before being transferred to the neurology hospital where his condition deteriorated.

Steve Hill, director of rugby at Oxford University, said Tucker was injured after being caught underneath a Saracens player as his opponent dived over the tryline.

"With regard to the particulars of the injury, we will have to wait for the post mortem to find out," said Hill. "But the information that we have is that Ian died from severe head injuries."

Tucker was tipped to win a place in Oxford's team for the Varsity Match against Cambridge at Twickenham on December 10th and had also attracted interest from several top English clubs.

Hill added: "Ian was a fantastic player who took his rugby very seriously. He worked very, very hard at his game and was very ambitious as a rugby player.

"Many of the top London clubs, such as Harlequins and Wasps, were very keen for Ian to join their club when he finished his time at Oxford. He had a great future in front of him.

"He was a very hard tackling, hard running centre who never flinched in the tackle and was an inspiration and example to the other players."

Tucker played for Australia under 19s four years ago and his death has deeply shocked the Wallabies squad which is preparing for the first game of their British tour against Scotland A tomorrow.

Tucker was studying for a special diploma in Social Studies in Oxford. In Australia he played for New South Wales at under 17, under 19 and under 21 levels and represented Australia under 19s against New Zealand in 1992.

Les Kirkpatrick, who coached Tucker when he was a pupil at Riverview College in Oxford, said: "We are devastated by the loss. In my 30 years here, few events have rocked the foundations of the school to such an extent."