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JPR Williams: Former Wales and British and Irish Lions player dies aged 74

Wales legend JPR Williams dies at the age of 74; Williams won three Grand Slam titles with Wales, in 1971, 1976 and 1978, and played eight Tests for the Lions across victorious tours to New Zealand and South Africa in 1971 and 1974 respectively

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Sky Sports News' Geraint Hughes pays tribute to Welsh rugby icon and 'phenomenal talent' JPR Williams, who has passed away at the age of 74

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back JPR Williams has died at the age of 74, his former club Bridgend have announced.

Williams, known for his aggressive and attacking style as a player, won 55 caps for Wales and started all eight Tests on victorious Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later.

The Bridgend-born back was revered among fellow Wales greats like Sir Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies and regarded as one of rugby union's finest players.

A statement from Bridgend, for whom Williams served as player and club president, read: "JPR's passing leaves a huge void at the club, and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time."

Williams won Grand Slam titles with Wales in 1971, 1976 and 1978, while he was part of Schweppes Cup victories with Bridgend in 1979 and 1980.

He also played domestically for London Welsh and Tondu as well as Natal in South Africa, with his final game for Tondu coming in 2003 when he was in his 50s.

A talented tennis player, Williams won the 1966 British Junior title at Wimbledon, beating former Great Britain Davis Cup captain David Lloyd 6-4 6-4, while away from sport he became an orthopaedic surgeon.

But it is Williams' rugby exploits for which he will be most remembered, including scoring a drop goal for the Lions in the fourth Test against New Zealand to secure a 14-14 draw and seal a series victory.

Williams first played for Wales against Scotland in 1969 and made his final appearance for his country against the same opposition 12 years later, while he captained the side on five occasions.

'Williams' passing leaves huge void at Bridgend'

The full statement from Bridgend Ravens read: "Bridgend Ravens are devastated to announce the passing of JPR Williams.

"An icon of the world game, John Peter Rhys Williams served Bridgend Ravens as a player and most recently as club president.

"He was capped 55 times for Wales and made eight Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions.

"Highlights of his illustrious career included winning two Schweppes Cup titles with Bridgend in 1979 and 1980, and three (Five Nations) Grand Slams in 1971, 1976 and 1978 for Wales.

"Following his retirement from the game, JPR became a key figure of the club's administrative team, serving as Bridgend Ravens club president - a role he held until his passing.

"JPR's passing leaves a huge void at the club, and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this sad time."

'Fearless JPR transcended rugby, his name was bigger than the game'

Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes on JPR Williams:

"He was utterly fearless and has legendary status within Wales and within the rugby community. Any aspiring full-back would wish to be the player that he was. He was a phenomenal talent.

"Fifty-five caps for Wales doesn't sound like much these days when players get a century of caps but back when JPR was playing that was an awful lot of caps as they played fewer matches.

"Those 55 caps came when Wales were a phenomenal side. They were expected to win and more often than not they did win. He also starred with the Lions in 1971 and 1974 in series wins.

"I said he was fearless and he put his head in places a full-back should never put it. He played with a speed and an ability that took the game to a new level. He was a legend of the game. He transcended the game of rugby.

"Rugby in the 1970s when Wales were winning everything became very cool. It was cool to be seen out with that Welsh side, be associated with them. It was not just that they won but the way they won - joie de vivre. They threw the ball around at pace.

"It was a unique period in time when these players who were all unbelievably talented, all world-class, came from a tiny country like Wales at the same time - Gareth Edwards, Barry John, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, Gerald Davies, JJ Williams.

"No one knew what JPR's first name was - the name JPR was bigger than himself, bigger than the game. He was so charismatic. JPR at 15 was all people needed to know.

"His impact on rugby was massive and people respected him beyond belief. New Zealanders and South Africans wished they had their own JPRs. For players from those countries to say that about a Welsh player was some compliment.

"He was incredibly fit, playing for Tondu until 2003 well into his fifties, and he was also an incredibly talented sportsman beyond rugby. He was a serious tennis player, too."

'JPR was Mr Indestructible - with him on your side, there was always a chance of winning'

Welsh Rugby Union president and former player Terry Cobner, writing on the WRU website:

Wales and British & Irish Lions legend JPR Williams has died at the age of 74
Image: JPR Williams played in all eight British and Irish Lions Tests on the victorious tours of New Zealand and South Africa in 1971 and 1974

"The world of rugby has lost one of its greatest players of all time, a man who revolutionised full-back play over an international career of 12 years.

"He was the defensive rock in every team in which he played, the counter-attacking inspiration and the man who feared nothing and never saw a lost cause. We all thought he was 'Mr Indestructible'.

"Although he played during the amateur era, he was thoroughly professional in his sporting outlook and always drove standards in training and on the field. With JPR in your side, there was always a chance of winning anything."

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