Vet and rugby player who played for England and Edinburgh University

Born: September 25,1925;

Died: May 9, 2015

MICHAEL Roland “Micky” Steele-Bodger, who has died aged 93, was a larger-than-life legend of rugby union football. After nine successive caps for England, in 1949 he sustained a career-ending injury, forcing him to switch to administration, where he became, in effect, “Mr Rugby Union”.

His father Harry was a distinguished vet, founder of the British Veterinary Association, running a successful practice in Tamworth. This enabled him to send his sons Alasdair and Micky to Rugby School, where a love of the game founded there was instilled in them both.

From Rugby, Micky went up to Cambridge, to Gonville and Caius College, where he was a double Blue, captaining the university in the 1946 Varsity match. From there he followed father and elder brother in going to the Royal Dick Vet school at Edinburgh University.

He won the first of his nine caps while at Cambridge, so, when he arrived in Edinburgh, they were naturally delighted to have him in their team. There is a legend of his journey south to play in the 1947 Calcutta Cup match. This involved a 30-hour train journey through the worst of the coldest and hardest winter of the 20th century. He left Edinburgh on the Thursday night, twice helped dig the train out of deep snow on the Waverley Line then telegraphed ahead from Carlisle that he was on his way, but did not reach the team hotel in London until 4am on the Saturday.

Leaving word to: “Waken me at 10am,” he retired to bed, overslept and had to take a taxi to where he understood the team would be lunching. They weren't there, so, he got back into the taxi and headed for Twickenham.

Arriving before the rest of the England team he got changed and was sitting, in his match kit in the dressing room when they arrived, only to learn, because they thought he wasn't coming, the selectors had dropped him.

Words were exchanged, but Steele-Bodger played in England's 24-5 win. He was listed as playing for Cambridge University in that game, but, in the return fixture in 1948 at Murrayfield, he was listed as playing for Edinburgh University.

He also played for Harlequins, and had a long association with the Barbarians, first donning the legendary black and white hoops in 1946. He was a true Barbarian, always up for the high jinks which were such a part of their tours, to South Wales and beyond. He captained the team, and scored against the 1948 Australian tourists in the first of what would become a rugby tradition, end of tour game. Later he was was a committee member, team manager on tours, honorary secretary and was still president at the time of his death, 73 years after he was invited to join the club.

He also, in 1948 established “the Steele-Bodger Match,” when he put together an invitation team of near-international standard, to play Cambridge University as their final warm-up game before their annual date with Oxford at Twickenham. This match continues to this day.

He was an “Old Fart” as Will Carling memorably named the RFU hierarchy, around Twickenham over many years, and president of the RFU in 1973-74. He was a long-time member of the International Rugby Board, the fore-runner of World Rugby, and was its chairman for a number of years.

Although his injury denied him the opportunity of wearing the legendary red shirt, he gave sterling service to the British Lions, as a committee member and selector. His long service to the game was recognised, when he was made CBE in 1990.

Away from rugby, he had a long association with the East India Club in London. He was life president of the club at the time of his death, having played a key role in keeping it going in the sometimes difficult times following the end of the Raj. He was also involved in Round Table, being a founder member of the Tamworth club in 1952. However, he was always a working vet.

He is survived by wife Violet and his children, Guy, Duncan and Clair, nine grand-children and five great-grand-children.