Wales and Lions great John Dawes dies at age 80

Oleh John Skilbeck 17 April 2021 7
Wales and Lions great John Dawes dies at age 80

Welsh rugby great John Dawes, who captained the British Lions on their victorious 1971 tour of New Zealand, has died at the age of 80.

Dawes, who also skippered and later coached Wales with great distinction, was remembered by his former international team-mate Gareth Edwards as "one of the giant figures" in the history of their national team.

His death was announced by Newbridge, Dawes' first club, who reported he had experienced "a period of ill health".

Dawes, a centre, won his first Wales cap against Ireland in 1964 and helped the team to Triple Crown successes in 1965 and 1969 prior to captaining his country to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971.

A Dawes-skippered Lions squad landed a 2-1 success against the All Blacks in the same year, with the fourth match in the series drawn.

That is the only time New Zealand have lost a series against the touring Lions, whom they beat 3-1 six years later, by which time Dawes was head coach.

Dawes coached a great Wales team from 1974 to 1979, helping them win the Five Nations championship four times in six years, landing four Triple Crowns in the same period and Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978.

He became president of London Welsh, who said his death was "a seismic loss" for all of rugby.

Fellow Welsh legend Edwards featured alongside Dawes in the Barbarians side that famously beat New Zealand 23-11 in Cardiff in 1973, when Edwards scored what many regard as one of rugby's greatest ever tries.

"I can still hear Cliff Morgan in commentary say, 'Dawes, great dummy'," Edwards said. "That moment encapsulated John as he helped to set up a score that has never been forgotten.

"John was a fantastic captain and a great coach. He is one of the giant figures of Welsh rugby of any era."

In his tribute posted on the Welsh Rugby Union website, Edwards added: "John was always calmness personified on the field amid the chaos of international rugby. People don't understand how valuable it is to have someone like that on your side, someone who can see the bigger picture and calm everyone down.

"He never went over the top about our success when he was coaching. He would calmly tell us when we gathered for the first time in a season that while we weren't a good team at that moment, by the end of the season we would be a great side."

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