'One of the greatest sportsmen' - A look back on the life of rugby legend Barry John

  • ITV Wales' Sports Reporter Matt Southcombe has been looking back on Barry John's life.

"A one off" and "gifted player" - just some of the words used to describe Wales rugby great Barry John, who has died aged 79.

The former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half died peacefully in hospital, his family announced on Sunday 4 February.

John, who was nicknamed "The King" by New Zealand journalists after he inspired the Lions’ famous 1971 Test series victory over the All Blacks, won 25 Wales caps between 1966 and 1972.

Ireland's Barry McGann (no.10) tackling Gareth Edwards of Wales, with teammate Barry John to the right. Credit: PA Images

The fly-half was born and grew up in Cefneithin, where he later went on to play rugby as a school boy.

'A gifted player and a very good friend'

Speaking to ITV News Wales, Alan Ellis, the former chairman of Cefneithin RFC and "very good friend", described the rugby legend as "a gifted player", and "somebody who could speak eloquently about the game of rugby which he enjoyed and which he knew everything about."

"There were no two people like him, he showed he was very different." He continued.

"It was a pleasure to have called him a friend."

Mr Ellis added: "Barry's name will never be forgotten in the village and in the whole valley."

'A one-off'

Delme Thomas played with Barry John for Llanelli RFC, Wales and the British Lions.

He said "Barry John was a one-off.

"I can recall the 1971 Lions tour to New Zealand where we won the series through JPR's drop goal in the final test.

"A great player to have played alongside with."

Barry John (foreground), one of the heroes of the 1971 British Lions rugby tour of New Zealand. Credit: PA

'One of the greatest sportsmen'

Fellow British Lion, and president of the WRU, played tribute to "The King". Terry Cobner described him as "one of the greatest sportsmen ever produced in Wales."

Cobner played in the Welsh back-row and toured with the Lions in 1977. “He was a glider, rather than a sidestepper, who had a subtle change of pace and direction.

"Coming on top of the recent deaths of Brian Price and JPR Williams, this is another huge blow for Welsh rugby", he said.

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