Major teams: London Welsh, Swansea
Test span: 1969-76
Wales caps: 38 (38 starts) Lions caps: 8 (8 starts)
Test points: 7 (2T)
Mervyn Davies, who passed away in 2012, will be remembered as a Wales and Lions legend for what he achieved during the Seventies.
Had his career not finished so abruptly at 29 on account of a brain haemorrhage incurred in a game against Pontypool, barely a year after he’d led Wales to a Grand Slam, then his list of achievements would have included captaining the 1977 Lions.
Davies was a magnificent lineout jumper and a great source of ball, either to set up an attack or feed Gareth Edwards with a deft tap down. Physically, at 6ft 5in and with long arms and huge hands, he was on the gangly side, but he was hugely effective.
A lifelong friend, Derek Quinnell, commented: “You knew that if you threw it anywhere in his vicinity he would catch it. He was also a masterful tackler and able to wrap up the opposition with ease. Invariably he’d emerge from the bottom of any ruck, killing opposition ball and slowing the ball down to help the team.”
When people look back at the Seventies, they tend to think of the Welsh backs but the fact ‘Merv the Swerve’ is mentioned in such rarefied company shows he bucked the trend.
His Lions record was exemplary. In eight Tests on New Zealand and South African soil in 1971 and 1974, he only lost one, and only nine Tests in 46 if you add his Wales appearances.
As a leader, he was quiet and unassuming. What made him stand out above other captains was that not only was he a good talker but a good listener.
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On the 1971 tour of New Zealand, the great Colin Meads said that Davies was the biggest nuisance of all. It was some accolade. Davies had a galvanizing effect in that he drew people together. He was never into his image but he will indelibly be linked with that headband and moustache. A giant among men.
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