Sports writers of the day vied with one another to find epithets to describe Peter Jackson’s unorthodox style of play, one reporter hailing him as ‘a cross between Stanley Mathews and Nijinsky’. Jackson was a rugby union player for Coventry at the height of their prowess and was capped for England 20 times.
Born in Birmingham in 1930, he attended King Edward VI Grammar School where he discovered his passion for rugby. He was called up for National Service and played for the Army, later joining the Old Edwardians team.
Selected for England
In 1953 Jackson joined Coventry RFC where he captained the team. It was while at Coventry that he was selected to play for England earning the first of 20 international caps. An unassuming character off the pitch, Jackson’s style of play on the wing was one of the most entertaining ever seen, in large part because of his unpredictability.
Although not the fastest of runners, his ability to side-step, to weave and duck and dive through the narrowest of gaps was the result of his instinct to always hold onto the ball and not to kick it out of play. He had an uncanny ability to anticipate the moves of opposing players and was a master of the feint.
It was not just the sports writers who enjoyed dubbing him with a variety of nicknames. To fellow players he was PBJ, the prince of wingers, or cadaver, due to his very pale complexion. To one commentator he was the Pimpernel.
Match Winning Try
Jackson’s winning try in the England-Australia match at Twickenham in 1958 is legendary. The home side was down to 14 men and at full time the score 6-6. Jackson received the ball on the touchline well inside England territory. He dodged the mass of Australian players surrounding him and ran a spectacular zig-zag for 30 metres finally dodging the Wallaby full-back to put the ball right in the corner over the try line. 60,000 spectators saw England triumph 9-6 in the closing minutes and a good-natured mass pitch invasion ensued. One writer described Jackson as having joined the ranks of the rugby immortals.
The following year Peter Jackson was selected for the British and Irish Lions tour of Australasia, where his prowess on the wing was rated as the best ever seen in New New Zealand.
Despite his achievements and popularity, Jackson’s comparative lack of speed and idiosyncratic style of play caused the English selectors to replace him with the Olympic sprinter John Young after the Lions tour, but three years later he was back, playing at Cardiff against Wales where he ran the length of the field to score for England in the team’s last victory at Cardiff for 28 years.
After retiring as a player Peter Jackson became involved in rugby administration serving as fixtures secretary, club secretary and finally president of Coventry RFC. Living in Castle Bromwich opposite the Bradford Arms, Jackson went on to run an export business. He died in March 2004 at the age of 73.