John Dawes, who captained the British and Irish Lions during their only series win against New Zealand, has died at the age of 80. Photo: @WelshRugbyUnion/Twitter
John Dawes, who captained the British and Irish Lions during their only series win against New Zealand, has died at the age of 80. Photo: @WelshRugbyUnion/Twitter

Wales and Lions great John Dawes dies, aged 80

By AFP Time of article published Apr 16, 2021

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LONDON – John Dawes, the only British and Irish Lions captain to lead the combined side to a Test series win in New Zealand, has died at the age of 80 it was announced Friday.

As well as skippering the Lions to their 1971 success over the All Blacks, the Wales centre was also the Barbarians captain when they beat New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973, where he had a hand in Gareth Edwards' celebrated try.

"John was a fantastic captain and a great coach," Edwards told the Welsh Rugby Union website.

"He is one of the giant figures of Welsh rugby of any era."

The scrum-half great added: "He wasn't the fastest or most elusive player, but everyone around him benefitted from his great skill and his distribution.

"You only have to look back at the 1971 Lions tour to see how Ireland’s Mike Gibson shone playing outside him in the centre."

Dawes' death was announced by one of his former clubs, Newbridge, who said Friday: "After a period of ill health, John Dawes sadly passed away this morning."

The WRU tweeted that it was "with great sadness" they had learnt of Dawes' passing, while the Lions acclaimed him as a "true legend of the game".

Dawes won the first of his 22 Wales caps aged 23 against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 1964, marking the occasion with a try.

The following year he took over the captaincy of London Welsh, where his insistence on moving the ball at speed became a hallmark of one of the most successful club sides of the era, with that attacking style of play also underpinning the victorious Wales teams of the 1970s.

The London Welsh side of that time featured Dawes' fellow Wales internationals JPR Williams, Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies and John Taylor, all of whom starred for the 1971 Lions.

Dawes first captained Wales in 1968 and was their skipper when they won a Grand Slam in the old Five Nations in 1971.

The last of his total of 26 Test caps came with four appearances during the Lions memorable 2-1 Test triumph (with one draw) against New Zealand.

A year after the Barbarians 23-11 win over New Zealand in 1973, Dawes became the Wales coach, a post he held until 1979, with the team winning the Five Nations Championship four times in five seasons, including two Grand Slams.

He was also the Lions coach on their losing tour of New Zealand in 1977.

AFP

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