Days after the death of legendary fullback JPR Williams, Wales are mourning another of their icons, former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half Barry John has died at the age 79. He had participated in 25 international matches for the Leek XV and five tests for the Lions. With him at opener, Wales won three Five Nations Tournaments, including a Grand Slam in 1971.
In 1971, the man nicknamed “The King” triumphed over the All Blacks, beaten 2-1 in a series of test matches that had become legendary against the Lions. His association at the Welsh hinge with Sir Gareth Edwards was one of the finest in the history of rugby. The Cardiff player retired aged just 27, leaving Gareth Edwards and Welsh fans orphaned.
After his international debut in 1967, at the age of 22, against Australia, Barry John won two Five Nations Tournaments in 1969 and 1970. But the one who totaled 25 capes in the Welsh red jersey, including 23 associated with scrum half Gareth Edwards for one of the greatest hinges in the history of rugby, had definitely entered the legend in 1971.
That year, Barry John contributed, along with Gareth Edwards, fullback JPR Williams and Mervyn Davies, some of a golden generation, to the Welsh final victory in the Five Nations Tournament and Grand Slam. , the first for Leek's XV since 1952. A few months later, he guided the British and Irish Lions to a winning streak during their tour of New Zealand.
During this tour where the talented fly-half had played 17 of 26 matches, the Lions had won two of the four test matches against the All Blacks, drawn once and lost only one of them. After a truncated edition of the 1972 Tournament, he bowed out prematurely, at just 27 years old, in full glory.
“I felt less and less close to the people. Some others had fun, not me,” he later confided. “I was no longer sufficiently equipped mentally and physically to continue to face high-level rugby,” he added. “Barry was going to reach his zenith. He should have stayed playing longer. The world has never seen the best of Barry John,” lamented Mervyn Davies, his former teammate, in the book “The Lions of Wales”.