At one time considered the best centre-threequarter in “the four countries” (England, Ireland, France and Wales), Donald William Burland played rugby for Bristol from 1926 to 1934. He “assisted the county on more than 30 occasions” and played for England eight times.
Don Burland was born in Bristol in 1908. His father, William had the Rising Sun pub at Ashton Gate and was also a member of Bristol Bowling Club. Sadly, William died when his son Don was only 1 year old.
Nevertheless, Don Burland grew up strong. Of “magnificent physique”, he was said to be as strong in attack as in defence. His hand-off was so powerful that he occasionally left “a trail of fallen opponents in his dash to the line”.
He played for Horfield Church before joining Bristol Rugby Club at the age of 18. His greatest moment was probably in 1932, in the international against Ireland in Dublin, when he scored all 11 points – he converted his own try and kicked two penalty goals.
Known for being unstoppable when he was in possession and within 20 yards of the line, Don Burland received more than his fair share of injuries. It was after he fell heavily and dislocated his shoulder in the match between Bristol and Aldershot Services in March 1934 that he reluctantly took the decision, on medical advice, to retire from the game at the age of 24.
In August 1934, the Western Daily Press said of Don Burland, “He will rank as one of the finest match-winning players Bristol has ever had”, In the course of eight seasons, Burland had made “over 200 appearances for Bristol and scored 691 points”. After his retirement from rugby, Don didn’t stop playing sport. In 1935, he was still appearing in local headlines playing some excellent cricket for Bristol Casuals!