JPR Williams obituary


Within the closing minutes of Wales’s 5 Nations assembly with France at Cardiff Arms Park in March 1976, the house facet had been resisting an onslaught by the guests when the French wing Jean-François Gourdon discovered some house on the touchline by the north stand. Gourdon was then hit by a shuddering shoulder cost from Wales’s full-back, JPR Williams, that each one however despatched him spinning into the group. Williams raised his fist in triumph and Wales held on to win 19-13 and full a seventh grand slam.

In reality, Williams’s deal with was removed from authorized, however the incident stays an indelible picture within the minds of Welsh rugby supporters – that and {a photograph} of the Bridgend No 15 with blood pouring from his face after being trampled by a visiting All Blacks boot. Worldwide rugby within the Nineteen Seventies was not for the squeamish, and JPR survived by being not simply supremely skilful, however as laborious as nails.

JPR Williams being chaired off the Cardiff Arms Park pitch by fans after Wales beat England 27-3 in the Five Nations championship, 1979.
JPR Williams being chaired off the Cardiff Arms Park pitch by followers after Wales beat England 27-3 within the 5 Nations championship, 1979. {Photograph}: Colorsport

Williams, who has died aged 74 from bacterial meningitis, would ceaselessly be referred to as JPR, the three most evocative initials within the sport. Solely France’s Serge Blanco might rival him as the best full-back in historical past. When the law-makers of the worldwide board prevented the ball from being kicked immediately into contact in 1968 it gave the chance for Williams and others comparable to Scotland’s Andy Irvine to forge a template for a way a contemporary attacking full-back ought to play.

The supply of Williams’s well-known hardness is stunning. Unusually for top-class gamers in Wales, he got here from a cushty middle-class house. Williams as soon as instructed of how he turned up at a Wales Schoolboys’ trial in a Rolls Royce. His upbringing, he mentioned served as an incentive “to show to my mates that I used to be robust and one among them”.

John Peter Rhys was born in Bridgend to Peter and Margaret, each medical doctors. Margaret had been born in Rochdale, so younger John might have performed for England, however that was not a topic a lot mentioned within the Williams family.

JPR Williams in the royal box at Wimbledon last year. As a 17-year-old he won the British junior tennis title at the club in 1966, beating David Lloyd in the final.
JPR Williams within the royal field at Wimbledon final 12 months. As a 17-year-old he gained the British junior tennis title on the membership in 1966, beating David Lloyd within the remaining. {Photograph}: Alastair Grant/AP

It was on the lawns of Wimbledon moderately than the muddy fields of Cardiff Arms Park or Bridgend that Williams first made his mark as a sportsman of renown. As a 17-year-old, he gained the 1966 British junior tennis title at Wimbledon, beating David Lloyd within the remaining.

He was gaining a fame at rugby in Bridgend, the place his father was the membership president and physician. By this time Williams had left Bridgend grammar college for Millfield college in Somerset, the place future Wales scrum-half Gareth Edwards was a pupil.

From Millfield, Williams went to St Mary’s hospital in London and had a spell on the London Welsh membership. He selected to proceed enjoying the newbie sport moderately than tennis and focus on his medical research, his father having instructed him that he wouldn’t make a residing as knowledgeable sportsman.

He was nonetheless a young person when he was known as right into a Wales squad to tour Argentina in the summertime of 1968. There have been nice expectations of the brand new boy John Williams, as he was then recognized, when he made his full Wales debut towards Scotland at Murrayfield the next February.

JPR Williams at a rugby awards and hall of fame induction ceremony in London, 2014.
JPR Williams at a rugby awards and corridor of fame induction ceremony in London, 2014. {Photograph}: Tom Shaw/World Rugby/Getty Photographs

Wales had a brand new coach, their former captain Clive Rowlands. Barry John at fly-half scored the ultimate strive in Wales’s 17-3 win. One thing was brewing in Wales and the 70s had been a golden age. As soon as Phil Bennett, alongside Edwards, established himself as Barry John’s pure inheritor and as soon as JPR was joined by the wings JJ Williams and Gerald Davies, Wales grew to become an unstoppable pressure in northern hemisphere rugby. On the coronary heart of their crew was JPR, immediately recognisable together with his Elvis-Presley model sideburns, flowing hair and socks typically pulled right down to his ankles.

What set him aside was his success as an attacking participant which, allied to that rock-solid defensive play, made him a everlasting fixture within the Wales facet between his 1969 debut and 1981, when he retired from worldwide rugby. He burnished his fame on the profitable British Lions excursions to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974, enjoying in all 4 Checks on every. Williams had been on a Wales tour to New Zealand in 1969 once they had been humbled by the All Blacks in two Checks so the 2-1 collection win by the Lions two years later got here as an enormous aid.

In Auckland he settled the collection with a long-range drop-goal within the remaining Check. It got here as a shock to his team-mates, however England’s Bob Hiller, his full-back understudy on that tour, had apparently joked to him that he couldn’t think about himself a correct worldwide till he had dropped a aim.

In South Africa three years later, Williams was heroic once more as Willie John McBride’s crew prevailed in an typically brutal collection win over the Springboks. The Lions’ name of “99” typically signalled all-out punch-ups, and the sight of Williams racing upfield to thump the a lot bigger South African lock Moaner van Heerden was a memorable one, although, as Williams confessed later it was not one thing of which he was significantly proud.

Williams gained 55 caps for Wales, 5 of them as captain in 1978-79; in 1977 he was appointed MBE. In between these Lions victories he scored the ultimate strive within the Barbarians’ well-known victory over the All Blacks on the Arms Park in 1973, and after retiring from the worldwide stage performed membership rugby for Tondu as a back-rower till 2003, when he was 54.

He met Scilla (Priscilla) Parkin at medical college, they usually married in 1973. His principal publish as a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon was on the Princess of Wales hospital, Bridgend (1986–2004). Williams not often joined the ranks of retired gamers who grew to become pundits, however he was all the time completely happy to speak a couple of stellar profession, significantly the 11 video games towards England, during which he all the time ended on the profitable facet.

He’s survived by Scilla and their youngsters, Lauren, Annie, Fran and Peter.


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