He redefined the full-back role in the 1970s and three letters were enough to describe him. Welsh rugby legend John Peter Rhys “JPR” Williams passed away on Monday, January 8, aged 74. The Bridgend Ravens club, of which he is president, welcomed an invitation. “Icon of world rugby” in a press release. Considered one of the best players in history at his position, he made his mark with an unorthodox offensive game.
JPR Williams, a member of du Leek’s “golden generation” of the reigning Five Nations Tournament XV in the 1970s, shone alongside Phil, winning eight at three grand slams (1971, 1976 and 1978) between 1969 and 1979. Bennett, Barry John and Gareth Edwards. The team-mates he found playing for the British Lions (which brings together the best English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish players) with whom he won prestigious victories in New Zealand and South Africa.
In 2014, the fifty-five-capped Welsh full-back was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame, the discipline’s pantheon.
A player with iconic style
When the death of JPR Williams was announced, tributes followed at the Oval. “Rugby has lost one of its all-time great players. He was the rock of defense in every team he played for.”On Monday he greeted Welsh Rugby Federation president Terry Cobner, one of his selection teammates in the 1970s.
Robust and combative, 1.85 meters tall, JPR was also emblematic for his style and, in particular, for the sideburns he wore thickly at his temples.
Born in Bridgend, 40 kilometers west of Cardiff, JPR Williams may not have known rugby, but he tried tennis for the first time and achieved his first successes there. He even became Welsh junior champion in 1963. Although he grew up juggling the Oval and the little yellow ball, the young Welshman made his final decision to play rugby at the age of 19 after being selected for the Wales B team to tour Argentina. A few months later, he made his international debut in the Five Nations Tournament against Scotland.
JPR Williams, who played when amateur rugby was successful, devoted himself to medicine in parallel with his rugby career, which he continued until the age of 54. This son of doctor parents became an orthopedic surgeon after his career. “I often say that I spend half my life breaking my own bones on rugby fields and the other half putting other people’s bones together in the operating room.”In his biography published in 2007 he wrote:Considering the Breaks: My Life in Rugby, Hodder, untranslated). A year and a half after Golden Leek XV captain and fly-half Phil Bennett died in June 2022, Welsh rugby lost another of its bright stars on Monday.