Major teams: Pontypool
Test span: 1975-83
Wales caps: 41 (41 starts)
Lions caps: 12 (12 starts)
Test points: 12 (3T)
Rugby’s Greatest: Graham Price
As a teenager, Graham Price was taken to the smoky bars of Pontypool and shown some of the pot-bellied beer drinkers who, once promising rugby players, had failed to make the most of their talent.
It was a message Price took to heart, and the youngster’s appetite for hard work on the paddock was one element that helped propel him to stardom for club and country.
“Pricey worked like a dog in training and ran like a stag in games,” said former Wales and Lions flanker Terry Cobner, who captained Pontypool for a decade. “He had this huge resolve, an incredible single-mindedness and sense of purpose.”
A Welsh Schools champion at shot and discus, Price made his first-team bow at Pontypool at the age of 18. He started to learn the front-row ropes against grizzled, older opponents, many of them two or three stone heavier and not inclined to go easy on a novice.
Price absorbed the lessons and became one of the greatest props the game has seen. He placed huge emphasis on the engagement, aiming to hit the top of the opposition loosehead’s head with his right shoulder and then locking him in such as uncomfortable position that he was like putty in his hands.
Price liked to scrum just inches off the ground and the bigger the opponent, the more he relished folding them up like a used cereal packet.
In one match on the 1980 Lions tour, the South Africans pitched the 6ft 4in, 23st heavyweight Flippie van der Merwe against him – and the Welshman had him on toast. “I remember one scrum in the second half where he let out a long wheeze that sounded like a death-rattle,” Price recalls in the excellent Pontypool book The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Price played in two Grand Slam teams, as well as 12 successive Lions Tests, on the 1977, 1980 and 1983 tours. Only Willie John McBride and Dickie Jeeps have played more Lions Tests.
If little footage exists of his world-class scrummaging and mauling skills, at least there is one memorable clip: the try Price scored on his Wales debut in Paris in 1975, when his hack and length-of-field chase culminated in him plunging over the line.
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