Over the years, many pub debates have been held and discussed over drinks about who exactly was the best player to ever grace the Welsh field.

The conversation inevitably begins with the stars of the 70s, who lit up the black and white era with bright flashes. Your tee formation will likely change depending on wind direction.

Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, Gerald Davies, all legends of the game and there are others who have a more than legitimate right to be mentioned in the same bar chats. One of them is JPR Williams.

There were rugby coaches in the 1970s who couldn’t lose sleep at night with Williams at full-back.

If a tackle missed, it was Penny Black’s turn. Equally strange was seeing Wales’ number 15 bunker fail to defuse an opposition bomb.

“Unflappable before advancing, with strength that could match his own (6-foot-5, 15.5 pounds), he made crowds around the world hold their breath as he leapt to snatch a high ball out of the air as his opponents stepped in. in him . ‘, is a look at Williams in the superbly written ‘Fields of Praise’, the official history of the Welsh Rugby Union.

How good was he playing out wide?

Long after the dust had settled on JP Ree’s playing career, his former Wales, Lions and Bridgend team-mate Steve Fenwick was asked in The Sunday Times A simple question: who was the best player?

Most would suggest the name Gareth Edwards as an answer.

Barry John or Bennett could be chosen, or Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies or Graham Price.

Fenwick went in the opposite direction, saying, “My number one on the team roster would be JP Williams.

“A lot of people would say Gareth Edwards was the best player in the world at one point, but JPR was always the best player.

“He was 100% committed. “I had the mindset that I wasn’t going to be defeated.”

Forty-two next month, Williams played his final Test against England. Wales prevailed, maintaining the 100 percent winning record of their belligerent team against their former enemy: 11 wins in 11 games.

The former London Welshman has retired from international football after previously announcing the end of his time with Wales.

But after that victory in 1981, they withdrew from the Test stage three weeks later, having been eliminated following the defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield. Shock waves take time to dissipate. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end for the star.

The news was communicated to him while the team was preparing for the next round. “I was told that in training before the next game against Ireland,” Williams said, according to Peter Jackson in the book Lions of Wales.

“Steve Fenwick, the captain, was also eliminated.

“He went home. I was training with the team and I hit the rest of the team, which was a pretty typical reaction!

“Maybe the desire to play international rugby was gone, except for the fact that I wasn’t surrounded by as many top players.”

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However, the era has ended. In the following game, Wales handed the number 15 shirt to Maesteg’s Gwyn Evans, a classy player who excelled as a defender but never got the chance to wear the number 10 shirt in Wales’ senior qualifiers.

The late Peter Williams, JJ’s brother, rated Evans as one of the best tactical controllers in Wales at the time.

But the national coach insisted on using him out of position. Despite his natural habit, Evans was successful enough to retain the Wales full-back position for two seasons and played in two Tests for the Lions against New Zealand in 1983.

Williams went on to play with some distinction for Bridgend and then Tonda.

“The brilliant thing about John is that he played for Bridgend just as he played for Wales and the Lions,” said his former Bridgend team-mate Lyndon Thomas.

“He only knew one way to play, with total dedication and total courage, and he deserves all the praise he has received over the years.”

Bridgend remembers Williams’ reaction after being beaten by New Zealander John Ashworth in a match at Brewery Field in 1978.

Williams received 30 stitches for a horrific facial wound. Incredibly, he returned to the field.

These things set him apart from others. There will never be another.