WRU President and Wales legend Gerald Davies pays tribute to ‘great rugby man’ John Dawes

Welsh Rugby Union President Gerald Davies has said it was a “privilege” to play with former Wales captain and head coach John Dawes, who passed away last week at the age of 80.

Welsh Rugby Union President Gerald Davies has said it was a “privilege” to play with former Wales captain and head coach John Dawes, who passed away last week at the age of 80.

Davies and Dawes were Wales teammates between 1966 and 1971, before Dawes became Wales head coach and coached Davies from 1974-1978.

They were also British & Irish Lions teammates in 1971, with Dawes captaining the Lions to an historic 2-1 series win over New Zealand.

“John Dawes was one of the greatest of rugby men, as a player, coach and especially, I believe, as an outstanding captain of a team. In each of these roles he accomplished a great deal,” Davies wrote.

“As captain his style was one of encouragement and persuasion, cajoling players to be at their best, and no finger-wagging authoritarian sergeant major.

“He also had the essential quality as captain that whilst involved in the intense competition of the contest, he could, like a drone, rise up above the hustle and bustle and have an overview of the ebb and flow of the match and to guide his team accordingly; of the game but also above it.

“It was for me a privilege to have been in the company of a truly great rugby man and to have played with his scintillating style of rugby.”

Born in Abercarn in 1940, Dawes gained a degree in chemistry and later taught science, while at club level he began his career with Newbridge RFC before becoming a stalwart for London Welsh, where he played 274 games and was honorary club president.

Dawes won the first of his 22 Wales caps in 1964, against Ireland at Lansdowne Road and fittingly marked the occasion with a try.

He played on Wales’s first-ever overseas tour a year later and wore the captain’s armband on six occasions – leading them to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971.

Upon retiring as a player, Dawes became coach of Wales in 1974 and held the post until 1979.

In that time, an incredible Welsh side won the Five Nations four times in five years, including Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978.

In fact, Dawes not only holds the distinction of having captained and coached Wales to Grand Slams, but he never lost to arch-rivals England either on the field or in the technical area.

“He had an all-embracing and wonderfully perceptive vision of rugby, producing in the late 60s and early 70s a version of rugby which broke the mould of what up to that moment was acceptable in the playing of the game,” Davies added.

“As a result the word ‘expansive’ entered rugby’s lexicon to describe the kind of game he imagined and put into practice

“As a player he was a centre three-quarter of subtle and exquisite skill. To be candid he was not a player who immediately caught the eye with dazzling speed or extrovert skills in the way a midfield player of those days was expected to be.

“He had the full range of rugby’s basic skills and fine judgement, from which others, in the main, benefitted. He was a catalyst who made things work for those players around him like, for example, the timing of a pass – which would be masterclass for many a player today.”