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JPR Williams
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JPR Williams

John Peter Rhys Williams, born 1949-03-02 in Cardiff, and known universally as JPR Williams, played rugby for Wales between 1969 and 1981. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest full-backs of all time.

Williams' devastating tackling and fierceness in defense were particularly renowned, but he also displayed great skill, speed, and agility in attack. A player with no real weaknesses, he was also a skilled kicker.

As a young man he won the junior Wimbledon championships in 1966, but he gave up tennis for the then-amateur game of rugby union in order to pursue a career in medicine. Williams' obvious ability quickly attracted attention and he was consequently first capped by Wales in 1969 aged 19. He went on to earn 55 caps for Wales and 8 for the Lions. He played club rugby for Bridgend and London Welsh.

He had many high points in his career, being a key player in a Welsh side that won Grand Slams in 1971, 1976, and 1978, but is particularly remembered for his remarkable record against England; in tests between Wales and England he scored five tries and was never on the losing side. He was also outstanding for the Lions, winning the 1971 series against New Zealand with a long-range drop-goal and playing a major role in the 1974 'invincible' series against South Africa.

Two particular episodes illustrate his legendary hardness.

In response to an injury crisis during the Welsh 1978 tour of Australia he played as a flanker in the final test. Expected to struggle in the unfamiliar highly physical position, he took to the role with relish and gave an impressive performance.

Playing for Bridgend against the All Blacks in 1978, Williams was caught at the bottom of a ruck, where he was stamped on by the opposing prop John Ashworth and had a hole torn in his cheek. Unfazed, Williams, a trained surgeon, retired from the pitch, stitched up his own injuries, and returned to the field.

Williams retired from international rugby in 1981 and continued his career as an orthapaedic surgeon. He continued playing club rugby for several decades.