JPR Williams. Pic: Phil Chappell

JPR Williams Was The Rock Of Welsh Rugby, Says Terry Cobner

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By Rob Cole

New WRU President Terry Cobner has led the tributes to JPR Williams, the superstar full back of the Seventies who has died at the age of 74.

Cobner, who played alongside JPR in the 1976 and 1978 Grand Slam campaigns, as well as the 1977 Triple Crown season, sys he will be remembered as one of the greatest Welsh players of all-time.

“The world of rugby has lost one of its greatest players of all time, a man who revolutionised full back play over an international career of 12 years that included 55 caps for Wales and eight for the British & Irish Lions,” said Cobner.

“He was the defensive rock in every team in which he played, the counter-attacking inspiration and the man who feared nothing and never saw a lost cause. We all thought he was ‘Mr Indestructible’.

“Although he played during the amateur era, he was thoroughly professional in his sporting outlook and always drove standards in training and on the field. With JPR in your side, there was always a chance of winning anything.”

A statement from his family, confirming the news, said: “JPR died peacefully today at the University Hospital of Wales surrounded by his loving wife and four children, after a short illness, bravely battling bacterial meningitis. The family request privacy at this difficult time.”

Born in Bridgend on 2 March 1949, John Peter Rhys Williams became the 1966 British Junior tennis champion, beating David Lloyd at the Wimbledon, as well as excelling at rugby. He played for Wales Schools U19 at rugby and won the first of his Welsh caps as a teenager against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1969.

He followed his father into the medical profession and became an orthopaedic surgeon surgeon. In 1980 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He studied medicine at St Mary’s and while in London starred for London Welsh, helping them to become the most powerful and attractive side in the UK.

He returned to Wales to play for his hometown team at the Brewery Field and helped Bridgend win the WRU Schweppes Cup in 1978 and 1979. At his death he was President of Bridgend Ravens.

He was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame and onto the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame ‘Roll of Honour’.

“Welsh rugby will remember him as one of our greatest players of all-time – those 55 caps, three Grand Slams and six Triple Crowns prove that. He also played in all eight Tests in New Zealand and South Africa on arguably the two greatest tours undertaken by the Lions in 1971 and 1974,” added Cobner.

“It was his drop goal from near half-way that enabled the 1971 Lions to draw the fourth Test and win the series 2-1 against the might All Blacks – the only series victory on New Zaland soil.

“A star in the making from his early school days at Bridgend Grammar, then at Millfield, he went on to thrill crowds at both London Welsh and Bridgend on the clubscene. He was ‘Box Office’ wherever he went.

“This is a terrible loss for our game, but obviously an even worse loss for his wife, Scilla, and their three four children. The thoughts of the whole Welsh rugby family are with them at this difficult time.”

It was Bridgend who confirmed his death in an emotional tribute on social media.

“Bridgend Ravens are devastated to announce the passing of JPR Williams,’ the Welsh Premiership side said.

“One of Bridgend’s most decorated players and an icon of world rugby, JPR served the club most recently as president. Our thoughts are with JPR’s family and friends at this sad time.”

The Lions added: “One of the greatest ever Lions. A man who inspired so many. It is with huge sadness to learn that JPR Williams has passed away. All our thoughts are with his family and friends. Rest in peace.”

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