Considered by many avid fans of the sport to be one of the greatest rugby players of all time, Gareth Edwards played scrum half for Welsh rugby union. Edwards is renowned for his pace on the pitch, which, combined with his extreme strength made him a powerful competitor. He also managed to play with ease and agility, a fact which is demonstrated by the outstanding statistics of his career. One of his greatest qualities is his intuition on the pitch, making him the outstanding player that he was, although his desire to win also contributed greatly to his performance. As well as his pace on the pitch, he also had an intelligent kicking game which helped bring many of his teams to victory. It is no surprise that the glorious years when Wales dominated the rugby world coincided with Edwards being on the team.
Edwards’ Rugby Teams
Although he was born in Wales, it was during his time at the English public school, Millfield, that Edwards first established his love for the game. At the age of only 19 he played his first game for Wales in 1967, against France. Between 1967 and 1978 Edwards managed to win 53 caps for his country, setting a new record which may never be beaten. He scored each of these in succession, without ever having a dip in his performance or having an injury. Edwards has also been awarded the title of being the youngest ever captain to play for his country, and it was during his time as captain for Wales that he managed to score 13 of his 53 caps. Edwards’ years with the Welsh rugby team were among some of their greatest, and he helped bring about their seven wins of the Five Nations Championship including three grand slams. He formed a half-back partnership with Barry John, which was the integral element to the success of the team during their careers. Their intuitive understanding of each other on the pitch had never been seen before, and it appeared as though they were always able to predict the other’s movements. During international matches they would often resort to their mother tongue of Welsh in order to be able to swap exchanges that could not be heard by the opposing team. On many occasions the two were punished by referees for this as they thought they were being sworn at in Welsh! The pair played together for 23 tests.
As well as playing for Wales, Edwards has also had a career with the British Lions for whom he has played 10 times. His career with the Lions included the year of 1971 when the Lions were at their peak and were the only team to win a series in New Zealand. Three years later, in 1974, he played with the Lions in their triumphant game against South Africa, which was also an unbeaten year for them. Edwards holds three British Lions tours to his name.
Edwards also played for the Barbarians from 1967 to 1978. The team have described him as one of their most famous players as well as being their best rugby footballer of all time.
After he wrote his biography, Edwards was termed a “professional” rugby player which in turn excluded him from being able to play or coach in any rugby union teams. From then on he has commentated on rugby matches for both English and Welsh channels.
In 1972 Edwards performed one of the greatest ties in his career, which has also been seen as one of the best ever solo tries in the history of rugby. It occurred during a game against Scotland, with Edwards managing to run from deep within the inside of his own half to the opposition’s end to score the try. When Edwards was playing for the Barbarians in a game against the New Zealand All Blacks in 1973 he scored a magnificent try, which from then on has been referred to as “that try”. Many have deemed it the greatest try in the history of rugby, and it is available to view on the Barbarians’ website. The Barbarians were intent on defeating the New Zealanders, who had earned themselves the title of one of the best teams in the world. Although the Lions had an impeccable line-up, the All Blacks had an exceptional team also and it was going to be a tough match. Edwards was the star player of the game, managing to bring about the unthought-of victory of 23-11 for the Barbarians. The ball passed through 7 Lions’ hands before it reached Edwards, and he stormed across the pitch to score “that try”.
In 1978 Edwards reached the half-century mark in his caps for England, making him the first player ever to have managed this. It was achieved during a Six Nations match at Twickenham against England. Although Edwards was not captain for this match, the team held back and let him run on to the pitch on his own, to the sound of cheers from his fans, to mark this monumental occasion. To make the day even more special, Wales also managed to beat England 9-6.
In 1997 Edwards was inducted to the rugby Hall of Fame, which many thought was long overdue.
In 2002 Gareth Edwards was named the greatest Welsh rugby footballer of all time. It was greatly debated who the title would go to, although many were confident that Edwards would receive the award.
In 2003 a poll was conducted in the Rugby World Magazine, which voted Gareth as the greatest rugby player of all time.
In 2004 a statue of Gareth Edwards was erected in the St David’s Shopping Centre in Cardiff, as a memorial to his magnificent play for the country.
In 2007 he made the New Years Honours list, and was awarded a CBE for his contribution to rugby. Edwards likened the thrill of receiving this award to how he used to feel on the pitch.
- Date of Birth – 12/07/1947
- Test Caps – 53
- Test Points – 88
- Test Tries – 20
- Penalties – 1
- Conversions – 2
- Drop Goals – 3
- First Appearance – Wales V France 1st April 1967. Lost 20-14
- Final Appearance – Wales V France 18th March 1978. Won 16-7