Obituary: Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby legend John Dawes

Dawes ‘a central figure’ in Wales’ golden era

Legendary former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain John Dawes has died. He was 80.

Dawes held the unique distinction of having been captain and coach of both Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

In 1971 he led Wales to the Five Nations Grand Slam and the Lions to their only series win over New Zealand.

As coach of Wales Dawes won four Five Nations titles including two Grand Slams and four triple crowns and was coach of the 1977 Lions in New Zealand.

Born in Abercarn in 1940, Dawes was educated at Lewis School Pengam before studying chemistry at Aberystwyth University and qualifying as a teacher at Loughborough College.

He started his rugby career at Newbridge and would go on to captain the talented London Welsh teamexternal-link of the late 1960s and early 1970s which included future Wales captains Mervyn Davies and JPR Williams as well as flanker John Taylor and wing Gerald Davies.

Dawes won the first of his 22 Wales caps against Ireland in 1964 and marked his debut with a try.

A tactically savvy centre blessed with quick feet and well-honed distribution skills, Dawes led a Wales team including all of those Exiles to the Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971.

Gareth Edwards' memorable try for Barbarians v New Zealand

On the back of that display, he was named captain of the Lions for the tour of New Zealand the following summer.

With Welshman Carwyn James appointed coach and boasting one of the most talented back divisions in the history of the game, the Lions won the Test series 2-1 with one match drawn.

It remains the only time the Lions have beaten the All Blacks in a Test series - a feat recognised when Dawes was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year at the end of 1971.

Dawes, who was made an OBE in 1972, was again the captain in 1973 when the bulk of that Lions Test team took on and beat the All Blacks again - this time in the black and white hoops of the Barbarians in Cardiff.

That 23-11 win is regarded as one of the great games of all time, and is best remembered for Gareth Edwards's "try of the century" with Dawes playing a key role in the build-up.

Within a year Dawes was appointed coach of Wales ahead of 1971 Lions coach Carwyn James.

The decision was controversial, but Dawes justified his selection as Wales embarked on a period of domination in European rugby in the second half of the decade.

They won the Five Nations championship four times in between 1975 and 1979, including two Grand Slams and four consecutive Triple Crowns.

Dawes was also appointed coach of the Lions for the tour of New Zealand in 1977, but this time the All Blacks came out on top 3-1.

However, if the 1970s are a golden era in Welsh rugby then Dawes - as much as anyone - could claim to be one of its key architects.

He was inducted into World Rugby's Hall of Fame in 2016.