JJ Williams: Legendary Wales and British and Irish Lions wing dies

Legendary Wales, British and Irish Lions and Llanelli wing JJ Williams has died at the age of 72.

He scored 12 tries in 30 Tests as Wales won four Five Nations titles, including two Grand Slams, during the 1970s.

A former sprinter who represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games, Williams also scored five tries in seven Tests for the Lions across two tours.

He sparkled on their unbeaten tour of South Africa in 1974, scoring two tries in each of the second and third Tests.

Huge success with Wales followed, as Williams helped his country win the Five Nations Championship four times between 1975 and 1979.

That included Grand Slams in 1976 and 1978 as Williams and his team-mates rubber-stamped their status as greats of not only Welsh rugby but the sport at large.

After retiring, Williams made a name for himself as an outspoken pundit, co-commentating on international and club rugby for BBC Wales.

Wales players will wear black armbands for Saturday's Six Nations match against Scotland.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: "On behalf of the national squad, management and team, our thoughts and condolences go out to JJ's family and friends.

"It always is poignant when you have a player of that ilk passing away. We'll show our respects by wearing the black armbands.

"He's a well known figure and familiar face, you can't mistake him. He was around the place quite a lot. He was always a friendly face who would come and say hello.

"Personally, he was very good to have rugby conversations with. He'll be sadly missed and the guys are well aware of what he's achieved in the game."

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) offered its condolences, saying: "All our thoughts are with JJ's family and friends at this sad time."

Williams' former Wales and Lions team-mate, scrum-half legend Sir Gareth Edwards, said: "A lot of people thought that JJ Williams was just a sprinter and out and out runner, but he had far more than that.

"Having been the outside-half for the Welsh schoolboys he had the ability to read the game and the knack to be in the right place at the right time.

"I spent many an our preparing for international matches and loathe to say training with him because I used to pull his leg quite often and say when we were half way through a session 'that's enough John, I'm ready'.

"He'd say 'oh, no no we're not' - typical athlete; wanted more, wanted to give more.

"But I was fortunate to be in a Welsh side when we had some very capable players and John epitomised the mood of that time.

"We had Gerald Davies on one wing as elusive as anybody, as slippery as an eel and JJ, an out-and-out sprinter, but very, very talented and capable of turning games in a moment.

"And indeed [I was lucky] to have toured with the British and Irish Lions with him.

"So over the years I've been very fortunate to sit back and admire his talents."

Edwards' former Wales and Lions half-back partner - another legend of the game - Phil Bennett played alongside Williams for Llanelli.

"I've had so many colleagues and old friends and rugby players phoning me; some of the great names from the past and everybody devastated by the news that JJ has gone and left us," said Bennett.

"A wonderful rugby player, great friend and… it only seemed like yesterday he was tearing up South Africa, ripping them apart and scoring tries for fun - a truly remarkable player.

"I can remember him joining Llanelli in 1972 and it was our centenary year and the great Carwyn James was coaching and we had a few star players come in - Tommy David, Chico Hopkins - and he said 'I've got the one man I wanted to join us, JJ Williams. He's a flier on the wing, we've got a good back division, let's get him the ball and he'll score the tries for us'.

"What took him to my heart, when he joined Llanelli I though 'hang on, is he coming here because it's our centenary year - is he just coming here to join a club that's celebrating things?'

"But he went on to play nine seasons for my beloved Scarlets; 223 games, didn't pull out of the hard cup games away to Pontypool and Neath etc and he endeared himself to the fans who loved him down here and, indeed, loved him all over Wales and it's very sad for John and his family, who worshipped him."

Williams played for Llanelli when they famously beat New Zealand 9-3 at Stradey Park in 1972. The club said: "It is with great sadness that we hear of the passing of the great JJ Williams.

"We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and former team-mates."

One of Williams' former clubs, Bridgend, tweeted on Thursday morning: "All at Bridgend Ravens are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former player JJ Williams.

"Our thoughts are with JJ's family and friends at this tough time."

Former Wales second row Craig Quinnell, Williams' godson, was another to pay tribute, tweeting: "It's with a heavy heart I write this. My godfather. My friend. My mentor and a inspiration to me passed away today. He was a legend to all. RIP JJ."

Wales coach Wayne Pivac pays tribute to JJ Williams