Millennium Stadium flags lowered in Mervyn Davies tribute

The flags around the Millennium Stadium have been lowered in honour of Mervyn Davies, the former British Lion and Wales rugby hero who has died aged 65.

Number eight Davies, known as "Merv the Swerve", led Wales to the 1976 Five Nations Grand Slam.

First Minister Carwyn Jones called him a "giant in all senses".

The Welsh Rugby Union said players will wear black armbands and a minute's silence will be held before Saturday's Wales v France match.

A video tribute to Davies' career will also be screened ahead of Wales' Six Nations match in Cardiff in which they chase their third slam in eight years.

Standing 6ft 3in tall, Davies, who died on Thursday, has been described as a "giant of the game" who won two Grand Slams with Wales and three Triple Crowns.

He went on the Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and to South Africa in 1974, playing in eight Tests.

Davies was handed the captaincy of Wales in 1975 and skippered the side to the Five Nations Championship in the same year, and the Grand Slam the following season.

He died following a long battle against cancer.

Image caption The lowered flags at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff

WRU president David Pickering, said: "Mervyn Davies was a man who epitomised the values of Welsh rugby and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him and all who knew of him.

"He was a giant of the game both on and off the field for London Welsh, Swansea, Wales, the Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions.

"He bore his illness with courage and his memory will undoubtedly live on within our game for all time."

'Modest and gentle'

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said: "We knew Mervyn was seriously ill but it was still a big shock. He was a legend and a giant of the game."

"We have lost a true great of our game with the sad death of Mervyn Davies. He was a giant in all senses.

"His loss will be felt across the rugby world because of the huge impact he had as an icon of the game.

"He stood out in one of our great Welsh teams but remained a modest and gentle man off the field of play throughout his life. He was a modest, gentle but straight talking man.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has paid tribute to Mervyn Davies said: "Sometimes the word legend is overused, but when it comes to Mervyn Davies it was true.

"He was a giant of the game who led Wales to the 1976 Grand Slam of what was then the Five Nations. His record playing for his nation speaks for itself - two Grand Slams and three Triple Crowns.

"A true great Welshman, Mervyn was arguably the best number 8 we have ever seen and will be sorely missed.

"My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

The WRU said as the Under 20s team would also wear black armbands at their game on Friday night, which would also see a minute's silence held.

His career was cut short in 1976 after he suffered a brain haemorrhage while captaining for Swansea in a Welsh Cup semi-final against Pontypool.

'Great esteem'

The two teams play on Friday evening after both sides have observed a minute's silence.

Swansea RFC honorary secretary Byron Mugford said: "It's a very sad day. The man is an iconic figure in Welsh rugby and certainly within Swansea rugby club.

"Being a Swansea boy, he was held in great esteem not just by the players but by the people of Swansea."

In 2001 Davies was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame and the following year a poll of Welsh rugby fans saw him voted the greatest ever Welsh captain and the greatest ever Welsh number eight.


Rugby writer and broadcaster Peter Jackson said many people would say that had Davies not suffered the brain haemorrhage, he would have led Wales to three grand slam wins in a row and captained the Lions tour of 1977.

He said: "He used to always admit that he was lucky to have survived it. Technically, he died twice on the ambulance going from [Cardiff] arms park to the hospital.

"He was never quite the same again but Merv, being the indomitable person he was, forged a new career as a pundit and afternoon speaker."

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