JPR Williams, legendary Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby union fullback, dies aged 74

JPR Williams, legendary Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby union fullback, dies aged 74
  • PublishedJanuary 10, 2024

Premier Division club Bridgend Ravens, who Williams captained during his playing days, announced the news on Monday.

“Bridgend Ravens are devastated to announce the passing of JPR Williams,” the club said on social media platform X.

“One of Bridgend’s most decorated players and an icon of World rugby, JPR served the club most recently as Club President.”

Williams was part of the golden era of Welsh rugby in the 1970s, one of just a handful of players from the principality to win three five nations grand slams.

JPR Williams dives with the ball in his hands
JPR Williams never lost a Test against England in 10 matches, scoring five tries.(Getty Images: S&G/PA Images)

After giving up a promising tennis career to pursue rugby and his medical studies, Williams was capped 55 times for  Wales and earned eight caps for the British and Irish Lions on tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974. 

“One of the greatest ever Lions,” the Lions said on X.

“A man who inspired so many. It is with huge sadness to learn that JPR Williams has passed away at the age of 74. All our thoughts are with his family and friends. Rest in Peace.”

A statement from the Williams family said: “JPR died peacefully today at the University Hospital of Wales surrounded by his loving wife and four children, after a short illness, bravely battling bacterial meningitis.

“The family request privacy at this difficult time.”

Although a hero for the Lions and Wales, one of Williams most enduring moments came for the Barbarians invitational side, when he was instrumental in scoring a length-of-the-field try against the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park in 1973 which is described as one of the greatest in the sport’s history.

Phil Bennett picked up a kick deep inside his own 22 before sidestepping past three tackles before passing to Williams, who offloaded to John Pullin despite being tackled around the neck by Bryan Williams.

The ball then passed through four pairs of hands before Gareth Edwards burst onto the ball and finished in the corner.

“If the greatest writer of the written word would have written that story, no-one would have believed it. That really was something,” BBC commentator Cliff Morgan said.

“Very sad news as we lose one of rugby’s greats,” the Barbarians club wrote on X.

“A man who will always have a special place in the hearts and history of our club.”

“Rest in Peace, JPR.”

After retiring from his international career, Williams continued to play for Bridgend, while also working as an orthopaedic surgeon. 

Former Wales international Jamie Roberts, who also went into the medical profession after ending his career, hailed Williams as an inspiration.

“An inspiration and role model for the rugby-medical fraternity,” he wrote on X.


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