Suffolk sporting legend dies aged 84

A SPORTING legend who helped Wales trump New Zealand in an historic rugby victory has died of cancer in Suffolk.

Laurence Cawley

A SPORTING legend who helped Wales trump New Zealand in an historic rugby victory has died of cancer in Suffolk.

Tributes were last night paid to Gerwyn Williams, who lived in Clare with his wife Josephine, who died on Tuesday at the Chilton Croft Nursing Home in Sudbury at the age of 84.

The 84-year-old former full back was part of the Welsh Under 15s which beat England 20-0 in 1938, he played cricket for Welsh Schools and was the welterweight boxing champion at Loughborough College.

He made his Welsh debut in the Triple Crown victory over Ireland in Belfast in 1950 and kept his place for the Grand Slam triumph over France that season.

When the 1951 Springboks came to the UK and Ireland Williams faced the tourists four times - for Llanelli, London Counties, Wales and the Barbarians. London Counties were the only team to beat the Boks, 11-9 at Twickenham.

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But it was Wales' victory over the All Blacks in 1953 for which he is most famous - a match which came a year before he retired from the game as a result of a dislocated shoulder against England.

Speaking about her husband, Mrs Williams said the couple moved to Clare about 20 years ago when he retired.

“It is very sad,” she said. “But what a life. We've loved Clare and Clare has been very good to us.

“He felt retirement very badly, he felt very lost, as is often the case when people retire. He said there were plenty of clubs for ladies but nothing for men.

“He said he did not know any men so he set up a retirement club. This became the Probus club and it has gone from strength to strength.”

Mr and Mrs Williams celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last November.

A spokesman for the Welsh Rugby Union said: “His death means there are only seven survivors from the 1953 team that beat the All Blacks - the last Welsh team to beat New Zealand in a full international. The thoughts of everyone at the WRU go to his family.”

A spokesman for London Welsh said: “London Welsh is saddened to hear of the death of former player Gerwyn Williams.

“Gerwyn played full back for Wales and London Welsh and won his first cap in 1950 when Wales beat Ireland to secure the Triple Crown for the first time since 1911. He went on to win a total of 13 caps. Our thoughts are with Gerwyn's family and friends.”

After retiring from rugby he pursued a successful coaching career, which included stints at Cambridge University and Blackheath. He also wrote a number of books on rugby coaching and worked as a schoolteacher at Harrow County School and Whitgift Public School.