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Cambridge rugby community left shocked by death of Gareth McComb at 42

The sporting community in Cambridge has been left devastated following the death of former Cambridge Rugby captain Gareth McComb at the age of 42.

Gareth, who lived in Cambridge but was originally from Belfast, collapsed on the evening of Thursday, June 1 during a run.

Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell
Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell

Paramedics fought for around an hour to save Gareth but were unable to revive him. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed.

Head of sport at St John’s School, Gareth retired from playing in 2015 and, from the 2016-17 season, had been at the heart of player development at Grange Road, supporting a large number of young players as they progressed through the club.

More recently, Gareth coached the LXs – the Cambridge University RUFC second team – to their outstanding 46-0 win over the Greyhounds at Iffley Road in March. He was also part of the coaching team with the CURUFC men at Twickenham in the Varsity Match two weeks later.

Scott Annett, CURUFC’s director of rugby, said: “Gareth was a student at Loughborough and I’ve known him and his family for years –he was from my same home club in Belfast.

“He played for Belfast Harlequins as an under-20, then went to Loughborough and played there. He signed for Nottingham, then went on and played for Cambridge for about six years.”

Scott called Gareth a “very talented player”, adding: “Gareth could easily have played at professional level; he was number six, or sometimes lock if he had to. Very athletic, very skillful, he just had heaps of ability.

Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell
Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell

“He was a very quiet guy – he was more of a lead-by-example than by giving speeches – really committed, very thoughtful, and as a coach that translated into really being outstanding with our younger players. Very warm and encouraging – very committed to development rather than results.”

Scott says that Gareth’s work with the younger men in the team eventually transitioned into them getting university blues and, in many cases, winning blues.

“That’s a real testimony to him, I think,” he said. “He played such a big role in supporting their development. He’d started to transition to doing more with the first team, I know Shanners (James Shanahan, head coach) had started involving him more within that first team coaching group. He was with us at Twickenham in March, running on and giving messages. So he played a huge role in our rugby programme and will be dearly missed.”

A statement from CURUFC read: “Gareth will be remembered with great love and affection by CURUFC players past and present, as well as the coaching and administrative team involved with running rugby at Grange Road.

Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell
Rugby player Gareth McComb. Picture: Chris Fell

“As head of sport at St John's School and a former captain of Cambridge RUFC, his death is a great loss to the Cambridge sporting community and all of our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Cambridge Rugby noted that Gareth played 130 games for them after joining from Nottingham Rugby in 2009, “going on to score 17 tries, alongside providing calming leadership as captain for many years before retiring in 2015”.

Gareth’s younger brother, Neil, was also a rugby player, representing Ulster on a number of occasions.

Gareth had recently purchased a house with his partner, Charlotte.

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