Lions legend John Dawes dies at the age of 80

Date published: April 16 2021

Former Wales and British & Irish Lions captain and coach John Dawes has died at the age of 80 following a period of ill health.

Dawes famously led the Lions to their only series victory over New Zealand in 1971, making four Test appearances for the tourists and winning 22 caps for Wales.

As a 23-year-old centre, he made a try-scoring international debut against Ireland in Dublin in 1964 and his storied career including captaining and coaching his country to Grand Slam titles.

“We’re unfortunately having to report some very sad news. After a period of ill health, John Dawes sadly passed away this morning,” his former club Newbridge said in a statement published on social media.

“Everyone associated with our game will be aware of John’s story and his great achievements within the game of rugby union.

“The heartfelt condolences of everyone here at Newbridge RFC go out to John’s family at this very sad time.”

Central figure

Dawes, who played for London Welsh as well as Newbridge, was a central figure in Wales’ glory years in the 1970s.

His most successful year in the Test arena was also his final one as he announced his international retirement in 1971 having won the Grand Slam and been at the helm for a 2-1 series victory over the All Blacks.

Two years later he enjoyed more success against New Zealand as he led the Barbarians in their famous 23-11 win at Cardiff Arms Park.

Dawes became Wales coach in 1974 and he masterminded Grand Slam triumphs in 1976 and 1978.

The Welsh Rugby Union tweeted: “It is with great sadness that we learnt today of the passing of Wales, @lionsofficial, @newbridgerfc, @LondonWelshRFC and @Barbarian_FC legend John Dawes.”

A tweet from the Lions’ account read: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lion #487 John Dawes.

“Captain of the Lions on the 1971 Tour, the only Lions side to win a series in New Zealand, Dawes made 19 appearances for the Lions. A true legend of the game, John will be sorely missed.”

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London Welsh saluted Dawes in a statement on their official website.

“It is with great sadness, but also much remembrance and celebration of a truly great life, that we confirm the death of former London Welsh player and coach, Welsh Rugby Union player and coach, British and Irish Lion, Barbarian, London Welsh honorary life member and club president: Sydney John Dawes OBE,” the club said.

“Our very best wishes and thoughts go out to all of John’s family, and particularly former player Mike Dawes (John’s son) and current squad member Rhodri Dawes (grandson).

“This is a seismic loss to the London Welsh family, as well as the entire rugby community across the world.

“This evening, we remember one of the true greats of all time and one of our own.”