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It's a sad day for Dartmouth Men's Rugby with the passing of Richard "Dick" Liesching, a true rugby innovator at the college, and also, importantly, a pioneer in the history of the sport in the United States.
Liesching, a high school student at Blundell’s School, Devon, England, decided to attend an American university, choosing Dartmouth, and entering in the fall of 1955.
Four-years later in the fall of 1958, he would make a radical proposal to the Dartmouth RFC by suggesting a winter tour to England. Rugby clubs in the USA had not been overseas since an All-American Team from California visited Down Under in the early 1900s. For fifty-years, other than spring break trips to Bermuda by Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Dartmouth, and the New York RFC, not one college or club side played out of the country.
Liesching contacted his father in England who worked vigorously to arrange a seven-game match schedule in three-weeks for the visiting fifteen from the United States. Nineteen Big Green students headed across the Atlantic to convince a dubious British press that Americans could play a high standard of rugby.
Dartmouth won five and lost two, surprising their opponents and earning merited praise for hard tackling and knowledge of the rules of the game.
Corey Ford, a noted author, wrote up the tour for Sports Illustrated, and also arranged for the team to make an audience appearance on the popular Ed Sullivan Sunday night television program.
At Dartmouth, Liesching served as cub president and coach, imparting the English way to make the sport clubbable and fun. Dartmouth rugby alumni honored him in 2013 at a dinner with the title "Dartmouth Rugby Legend." These alumni previously established the annual Dick Liesching Award at the university to be given annually to a deserved undergraduate.
He traveled often to see the Big Green play, and enjoyed meeting all the school's ruggers that came after his graduating Class of 1959.
Every rugby club in the USA owes a debt of gratitude to Dick Liesching who opened up the wonderful experience of touring abroad.