Fly-half John will remain a permanent figure In the rich tapestry of Welsh rugby history, with few names shining as brightly as his. His exploits on the field left an indelible mark on the sport. Born in 1945 in Cefneithin, Carmarthenshire, John's journey from rural Wales to the peak of world rugby has become the stuff of legend.
Starting with his dazzling performances for Llanelli, his was a precocious talent that would soon create headlines the world over – not least during the victorious 1971 British and Irish Lions tour, when the hard-to-please New Zealand press nicknamed him ‘The King’. The name stuck.
John was one of the figureheads of Wales’ Grand Slam successes in 1969 and 1971, but his contribution went beyond mere victories: it was a masterclass in grace under pressure. His role as the orchestrator of sublime attacking play endeared him to fans, and his iconic partnership with Gareth Edwards (whom he would also partner at Cardiff) became the stuff of rugby folklore.
At the zenith of his career, John made a surprising decision that would rock the rugby world. At the age of 27, in the same season he was the top points scorer in Wales' undefeated 1972 Championship campaign, he chose to step away from the game. In many ways, his departure marked the end of an era for Welsh rugby: the fact that it was so fleeting contributed to his legendary status, with many a subsequent Welsh fly-half having to measure up to 'The King'.
One of those fly-halves, Jonathan Davies - a fellow native of Carmarthenshire who would occasionally reach Barry John levels of brilliance - posted on social media: "another one of my heroes sadly gone". It is a second farewell this year from arguably Wales’ finest generation of players, following JPR Williams’s passing in January.