Major teams: Cardiff
Test span: 1967-78
Wales caps: 53 (53 starts)
Lions caps: 10 (10 starts)
Test points: 91 (20T, 2C, 1P, 4DG)
Rugby’s Greatest: Gareth Edwards
Gareth Edwards wanted to be a centre, like his hero Bleddyn Williams. But at 5ft 3in and 8st 5lb, he was taken off during a district U15 trial to prevent him being hurt. He was too small.
PE teacher Bill Samuel persuaded Edwards that scrum-half would suit him better, and for that intervention rugby will forever be in his debt. Samuel also showed admirable determination in securing Edwards a sports scholarship to Millfield when the youngster was set to become a soccer professional at Swansea City.
Edwards became one of the undisputed sporting greats, not just a rugby legend. He played for Wales at 19, captained them at 20, and won 53 consecutive caps during a decade of dazzling brilliance. Only four men have played more Tests for the Lions.
The teenage Edwards developed into a sensational athlete. His school had only one hurdle yet he became Welsh Schools champion in both hurdling and long jump.
The best players not only possess extraordinary talent but the drive to make it count. Edwards spent hours perfecting his pass, using a sand-filled ball to develop distance and passing through a swinging tyre to hone his reflexes.
Some of the game’s greatest moments have Edwards at their core, such as the 1973 try he scored for the Barbarians or the 12-second solo try against Scotland in the mud that highlighted his speed, power, physical skill and mental courage.
He played every Test of the victorious Lions tours of 1971 and 1974. It’s often forgotten that the latter tourists, celebrated as invincibles, were seconds away from losing to Orange Free State when Edwards conjured the winning try with a magical overhead pass to JJ Williams.
Numerous rugby luminaries don’t hesitate to name Edwards as the greatest ever. One such is Will Carling, who wrote: “He was outstanding at running, passing, kicking and reading the game. He played in the 1970s but if he played now he would still be the best.”
Knighted in 2015, Sir Gareth has so far set standards that no one else can reach.
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