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The greatest hookers of all time: Peter Wheeler

Peter Wheeler of England Rugby World

Peter Wheeler was tough and technically proficient. The England hooker was rarely bettered in the tight exchanges

Sep 14, 2016 12:06 PM EDT

Major teams: Leicester
Country: England
Test span: 1975-84
England caps: 48 (48 starts)
Lions caps: 7 (7 starts)
Test points: 0

Adopting the role of chief executive at Leicester Tigers in January 1996 and moving to a director position 14 years later, Peter Wheeler is known to the current generation as an administrative heavyweight of European rugby.

Since the advent of professionalism, he has helped uphold the traditions of a hugely proud club while maintaining a steady stream of silverware. For slightly older aficionados though, his on-field prowess and lengthy list of honours were even more impressive.

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The extracurricular activity around the pitch truly set him apart. Captaining Leicester to three consecutive John Player Cups between 1979 and 1981, he was integral to an innovative, expansive style of play.

“We didn’t have the biggest pack of forwards at the time,” he would say on reflection two decades later. “But we were playing an open, attacking style of rugby that inspired people. We scored a lot of tries from all over the place.’

Having made his first-team bow in 1969, Wheeler finished on 349 appearances for Tigers. His ability was not consigned to domestic duty, though – far from it.

By the time he met France on his Test debut in 1975, Wheeler had toured the Far East with England and been on standby for the 1974 Lions trip to South Africa.

Some outstanding form for his country – he took four strikes against the head in a 23-6 defeat of Australia in 1976 – earned him a spot in the 1977 Lions squad and the then 28-year-old usurped Welshman Bobby Windsor to face the All Blacks three times.

Only poor back play prevented the Lions taking the series and Wheeler was the heartbeat of Bill Beaumont’s dominant pack three years later in South Africa, when a 17-13 victory at Loftus Versfeld allowed the tourists to end the season on a high.

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