Legendary winger JJ Williams, who was a key part of Wales’s Five Nations dominance in the 1970s, has died at the age of 72.
Winning 30 caps for Wales between 1973 and 1979, Williams crossed for 12 tries to help his country claim two Grand Slams (in 1976 and 1978) as well as four successive Triple Crowns.
Wales won four Five Nations titles in five years from 1975-1979 and Williams’ lightning speed terrorised defences.
That speed was honed as a sprinter on the track, a career that began with him winning the British Schools 100m and 200m titles while at Maesteg Grammar School.
While a student at Cardiff College of Education, he competed in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and also represented Great Britain at the World Student Games in Turin that same year.
He was a three-time Welsh 200m champion (1968, 1969 and 1971), while also winning the 100m Welsh crown in the latter of those years and his personal best times of 10.5s and 21.4s respectively demonstrated his talent for the sport.
That track speed translated to the rugby pitch as Williams played at outside-half for the Welsh Schools team before graduating to men’s rugby with Bridgend and then Llanelli.
In his first season at Llanelli, he helped them famously defeat the All Blacks 9-6 in 1972 – with this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash between Wales and Scotland at Parc y Scarlets falling on the anniversary of that game.
In addition to his Wales heroics, Williams played seven Tests for the British & Irish Lions on the 1974 tour to South Africa and the tour to New Zealand three years later.
As part of ‘The Invincibles’ in 1974, he scored 12 tries in 12 games – including two in two Tests against the Springboks – and his total Lions record was a remarkable 22 tries in 26 appearances, equal third on the all-time list.
A former PE teacher, after his rugby retirement Williams became a rugby pundit and also started an industrial painting business, eventually being awarded an MBE.
Bridgend paid their respects to the winger upon hearing about his death, writing on Twitter: “All at Bridgend Ravens are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former player JJ Williams.
“Our thoughts are with JJ’s family and friends at this tough time.”
And former Wales lock Craig Quinnell also passed on his condolences, tweeting: “It’s with a heavy heart I write this. My God father. My friend. My mentor and an inspiration to me passed away today. He was a legend to all. RIP JJ.”
Williams is survived by his wife Jane and children Kathryn, James and Rhys – with Rhys having followed in his father’s athletics footsteps as a 400m hurdle European champion, Commonwealth Games silver medallist and Olympian for Team GB.
All of us at Six Nations Rugby pass on our sincere condolences to all his family and friends.