Legendary Wales and Lions fly-half Barry John dies aged 79

Barry John was part of Grand Slam winning Wales side in 1971
Barry John was part of Grand Slam winning Wales side in 1971

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions fly-half Barry John has died aged 79 on Sunday.

Having represented Cefneithinm, Llanelli and Cardiff early in his career, he made his debut for Wales in 1966 and featured in 25 games scoring 90 points.

He played a pivotal role in Wales securing their 1971Grand Slam which was their first since 1952 and then made a key contribution for the British and Irish Lions in the 1971 tour when they defeated New Zealand 2-1. He finished as the leading points scorer for the Lions in that tour.

He retired from rugby at the age of 27, as Wales highest points scorer, citing the pressure of fame and expectation behind his decision.

"Barry John died peacefully today at the University Hospital of Wales surrounded by his loving wife and four children," read a statement from his family.

"He was a loving Dadcu [grandfather] to 11 grandchildren and a much-loved brother."

In his autobiography, John’s famous halfback partner, Sir Gareth Edwards wrote: “He (John) had this marvellous easiness in the mind, reducing problems to their simplest form, backing his own talent all the time. One success on the field bred another and soon he gave off a cool superiority which spread to others in the side.”

Welsh Rugby Union president Terry Cobner paid tribute to John and hailed his contribution to the game.

“To be crowned ‘The King’ in New Zealand when every back row forward in both the North and South Islands is trying to take your head off is quite some accolade,” Cobner said.

“He was a glider, rather than a sidestepper, who had a subtle change of pace and direction ... this is another huge blow for Welsh rugby.”