Tony Ward: Farewell to my great friend Bill
Like so many rugby lovers worldwide, I was knocked back by the passing of Bill McLaren. It's like a chunk of your life has been taken away as, alas, his wondrous voice will be no more.
I first got to know Bill when I made the advance to international rugby. An ultra-perfectionist, he would attend almost every final training-run, where he would identify the players to his satisfaction ahead of the following day's commentary.
But his professionalism at work was also his labour of love and how he enjoyed the banter with players he admired but never adored.
His famous Hawick mintballs were world renowned.
Unlike most of my contemporaries, it was my good fortune to swap playing boots for microphone and pen upon retirement. That allowed me to get to know the great man so well.
Countless times I made my way with the voice of world rugby (Bill) and voice of Irish rugby (Fred Cogley) alongside in the rush for the first bus, cab or train to the nearest plane home.
The stories told and memories shared will last forever.
And for sure, they'll be dancing in the streets of heaven tonight.