For many Gareth Edwards is quite simply the best rugby player of all
time. The complete player, his natural athleticism was matched by an
intuitive rugby brain. His 53 caps were gained consecutively over ten
years - a world record - and in those games he would only taste defeat
fifteen times. He was never dropped - if he had been there would have
been riots throughout Wales. Raised in the mining valleys, Edwards was
one of thousands of Welsh children who lived for sport, playing out
'international' games in the street - and always scoring the winning try
against England. Unlike many boys, Edwards would live the dream and was
first capped in 1967 against France, three months short of his
The Cardiff player had come into the spotlight after starring in his
club's tour to South Africa in 1967.
He would then become Wales'
youngest ever international captain, when he led out the side against
Scotland in February 1968 - he was 20 years and seven months. In all, he
was captain of his country on 13 occasions. Naturally, this put an
enormous burden on the young Edwards. Not only was he coming to terms
with the rigours of test rugby, he was also being asked to captain
players with more experience than him. He had to withstand great
criticism from the harshest of all rugby critics, the Welsh public.
Despite this he made the 1968 British Lions tour to South Africa and
enjoyed a successful trip until injury ended his tour. He undoubtedly
matured as a player developing one area of his game that was seen as a
weakness. His pass was seen as slow, but copying the great All Black
Chris Laidlaw, he perfected the spin pass. With his kicking game
improving, he was rapidly becoming an outstanding talent.
It is no surprise that Welsh domination of rugby in the seventies
came at a time when Edwards ruled supreme at scrum-half. Outside him was
'The King', Barry John, and the pair reigned for 23 tests. Edward's
service was accurate and swift, allowing John the time to weave his
magic. He had also added an intelligent kicking game, whilst devastating
breaks from mauls and scrums ensured opposing back-rows had their hands
full. Edwards made his second Lions tour in 1971 and was an integral
part of the team which defeated the mighty All Blacks. In titanic
battles New Zealand crowds could only marvel at Edward's vision, power
and pace; if his hamstrings had permitted it, he could have been an
Olympic sprinter! Edwards' presence and opportunism were key factors in
the golden era of Welsh rugby.
He would win three Grand slams, five Triple Crowns, five
outright Championships and two shared titles. For many, he is the
scorer of the greatest try ever. In the traditional end of tour game
against the All Blacks in 1973, the Barbarians were deep in their own
22. The ball passed between 6 sets of hands before Edwards burst onto a
pass and dived in at the corner. He was the ultimate finisher and scored
a remarkable 20 tries - and a couple of drop goals! This was due to his
strength but moreover his desire to win. It was this desire that again
saw him make a Lions tour, this time to South Africa in 1974. On the
hard grounds, he was again an integral part of the tour's enormous
success - the Lions went undefeated. In 1977, the Lions toured New
Zealand and it is a measure of Edwards' reputation in rugby circles,
that many believe if he had toured, the series would have been won. (John Lovell)
In 1974 Edwards was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year. He followed up this success by receiving an MBE in 1975.
In the 2007 New Year Honours, Edwards became a CBE for services to sport.
He was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 2015, for services to sport and for charitable services.