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'Unique': Sir Gareth Edwards praises fellow Welsh icon Barry John
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‘Unique’: Sir Gareth Edwards praises fellow Welsh icon Barry John

Gareth Edwards, a former Welsh and British & Irish Lions half-back, has referred to his teammate Barry John as a “mercurial” player who played a crucial role in their success.

The passing of John at 79 years old was confirmed by his relatives on Sunday. He earned 25 Wales caps from 1966 to 1972 and was a crucial player for the Lions team that won the 1971 Test series against New Zealand. His exceptional performances on the tour earned him the nickname “The King” from New Zealand reporters.

John participated in club rugby for Llanelli and later for Cardiff. During his time at Cardiff, he formed a successful half-back partnership with Edwards, which continued to thrive while playing for Wales and the Lions.

Edwards and John were teammates for a total of 23 matches while representing Wales. They also played together in a Lions Test against South Africa in 1968, as well as all four matches during their tour in New Zealand three years later. Their partnership resulted in several victories, including Five Nations titles, grand slams, and triple crowns, making them prominent figures during the golden era of Welsh rugby.

“I am saddened by the loss of my dear friend Barry John, whose passing has left a void in the world of sports, especially Welsh rugby. He was a unique and exceptional player, whose talent and skill contributed greatly to the success of Wales and the British and Irish Lions.” Edwards expressed.

Last week, I had a conversation with him and he appeared to be in good spirits. It was heartbreaking for me, my family, and many others to learn about his death. Our condolences go out to his wife, Jan, and his family.

Edwards remembered a rugby meeting they had before a Wales trial match in 1967. Both of them were students at the time, with Edwards attending Cardiff Training College and the other person at Trinity College, Carmarthen. Edwards called and proposed that they meet before playing on the same team.

I was in possession of a car and excited to travel from Cardiff, so we made plans to meet at a field in Carmarthen. However, when I got to Trinity College, I couldn’t locate Barry anywhere.

I was all ready and dressed up in my green college tracksuit with my boots in hand, eager for our meeting. However, it seemed that Barry had forgotten about it. I ran into a friend who mentioned seeing Barry at a party the previous night. I asked him to help me find Barry, and when we eventually found him, he appeared unkempt and was not wearing boots, only plimsolls.

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I was worried about my pass because it was criticized by others. We decided to practice throwing and catching. However, my teammate kept slipping and eventually said, “Just throw it and I’ll catch it!” From then on, that was our strategy.

Together, they journeyed across the globe, captivating audiences with their enchanting style of rugby and garnering worldwide recognition. When asked to compare Barry to another renowned outside-half he played with for Wales, Phil Bennett, Edwards replied, “Phil needed to have possession of the ball before deciding his next move, while Barry’s computer-like mind was constantly assessing and evaluating his options even before he received the ball.”

“Although Barry may not have possessed the shuddering sidestep of players like Cliff Morgan, Dai Watkins, or Phil, he still had a nimble and surprisingly fast agility that often went underestimated. Additionally, he had exceptional kicking abilities and was never afraid to take risks on the international stage, often trying unconventional moves.”

“What an exceptional individual he was, as a player, teammate, and friend. Although he may no longer be with us, his memory will never fade.”

Source: theguardian.com