Black History Month Bio - Roy Francis

26 Oct 2021

Roy Francis (Wigan, Barrow, Warrington, Hull FC, Wales & Great Britain)

Roy Francis just 17 when he signed for Wigan in 1936. He was a multi-talented teenage athlete in his native Brynmawr, and was destined to become one of rugby league’s greatest figures.

He moved from Wigan to Barrow just before World War 2. When he joined the army as a physical training instructor, he was selected to play rugby union for England, despite telling the selectors he was born and bred in Wales. In 1947 he became the first black player to play for Great Britain.

After the he transferred to Warrington, scoring a try in their 1949 Championship Final loss to Huddersfield. After the final he became player-coach of Hull, and transformed them into a powerhouse, taking them to three consecutive Championship finals, winning in 1956 and 1958, and two Wembley finals. In 1963 he moved to Leeds and built a team famed for its fast, free-flowing rugby.

Roy redefined the role of the coach. He taught forwards to handle like backs, and backs to tackle like forwards. He was the first coach to use individual fitness regimes, game-plans, and even early video analysis, and brought in outside experts, like sprint coaches, to develop players’ skills.

Most importantly, he believed in looking after all the needs of the players, ensuring their wives and families were cared for by the club. It was decades before other clubs and sports followed his example.

Roy Francis was a trailblazing player and the man who invented modern coaching methods.