JJ Williams

JJ Williams

"You need belief in yourself," says the British Lions and Wales rugby legend.

Follow your heart


John James Williams

1 April 1949

Nantyffyllon, Maesteg, Wales



  • Wales
  • British & Irish Lions

Previous Clubs:
Bridgend RFC, Llanelli RFC


  • Four consecutive Triple Crowns
  • Two Grand Slams
  • Record try scorer in a Lions series

I was born in the valleys, up in Maesteg. All my brothers were rugby players. My brother Peter was a triple jumper for Welsh Schools, even though we had no athletics facilities at my school. It was very common in those days for rugby players to be schoolboy international athletes as well. You could be the Welsh Schools winger and the Welsh 100m champion. That's not really the case any longer.

I was always into rugby, it's always been in my blood. When I went to college I'd won the British Schools title and I was then taught by Lynn Davies. He was my lecturer in Cardiff College and I was very much influenced by athletics. I decided to give it my all for three or four years. I went to the Commonwealth Games and the World Student Games. I was getting there but, deep down, rugby was calling. It was in my blood and I always knew I would go back to playing rugby. Plus it was easier than athletics (laughs).

Born performer

Rugby is a team event. To stand out as an individual in a team you have to be exceptional, and you also have to play with a good team. Every sportsman has to be totally committed and professional. If you're a rugby player, you have to be supremely fit and with fitness comes confidence. You also have to have skills. You need good skills to be a top performer, but having those skills alone isn't enough. You must be prepared to live a clean life. If you get all that together and, if you're good enough, you'll get there.

Believe in yourself


I was lucky enough to play with some great players. I won triple crowns with Wales. I won two Grand Slams with Wales. I was part of one of the greatest ever Lions teams that went to South Africa in the seventies, and I scored a record number of tries in the test matches. They were all highlights.

I suppose playing for Wales in the old Cardiff Arms Park, in front of a 60,000 strong home crowd, is the be-all-and-end-all for a Welshman. To run out for my first cap was, I suppose, my greatest moment.

You have to be talented, but you must be mentally strong as well. You must have that inner belief that you can do it. So many sportsmen crack at the top under pressure, e.g. when they're in front of 60,000 people. You need to believe you can perform at the highest level. In rugby people can be good at a club level and then, once they go up a level, they can't cope. You've got to have the mental strength to cope with that.

Be part of a team

I enjoyed the team aspect. I enjoyed the whole ethos of the dressing room. I was an athlete out on the wing. I had this individual streak running through me, although I was in a team. I wanted to score tries and if I wasn't scoring tries myself, even if the team was winning, I wasn't happy - that's good.

Be prepared to make sacrifices

It's not easy. You need belief in yourself. You need to want it and be dedicated. If you're prepared to sacrifice things because you believe it's worth it, then you'll get there. I look back on the things I sacrificed and I'm thankful I did that. For any youngster out there that wants to make it as a rugby player you may think you're good, but work harder. There are no shortcuts to success. If you dig down deep enough, you'll get there.

Confidence is something built from success.

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