Flamboyant rugby legend JPR Williams dies


John Peter Rhys Williams, one of the best rugby players the world has ever seen, died on Monday at the age of 74. He was one of Wales’ most celebrated players, especially during that country’s golden era in the 1970s. He also became a surgeon later in his life.

Williams, better known as JPR, at full-back, with his characteristic sideburns and socks around his ankles, was a terrifying sight for his opponents as he charged at them with – or without – the ball.

At the time, Williams also achieved great success as a player for the British & Irish Lions team.

He later became a surgeon and served as Bridgend’s club president until his death.

“Bridgend Ravens are devastated to announce the passing of JPR Williams,” his former club said in a statement.

“He was one of Bridgend’s most celebrated players and an icon of world rugby. Our thoughts are with JPR’s family and friends at this sad time.”

Williams made his debut in a match between Wales and Scotland in 1969. The last of his 55 caps came against the same opponents at Murrayfield 12 years later.

In 1971 he kicked over a decisive drop goal which secured the Lions’ only series victory over the All Blacks.

Williams was equally prominent on the unbeaten 1974 South Africa tour, which left the Lions with three wins and a draw.

“He was one of the best Lions players ever. A man who inspired so many people,” the Lions said in a post on X.

“It is with great sadness that we learn that JPR Williams has passed away at the age of 74. All our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Williams also played for the Barbarians in their memorable 23-11 victory over New Zealand in 1973.

At club level, his career included eight years with London Welsh – when the Exiles were a major force in British rugby.

“Everyone at London Welsh RFC is heartbroken at the news that rugby legend JPR Williams has passed away,” the club said.

“Our thoughts and condolences go out to his friends, colleagues and family. It is a great loss for all who knew and loved him.”

Williams, also a talented cricketer and tennis player, was later elected a member of the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to rugby.

He continued to play for the town club Tondu into his early 50s before retiring in 2003.

“JPR Williams leaves behind an incredible legacy. All our thoughts are with his family and friends,” World Rugby said in a post on X.