|Born||Cefneithin, January 6, 1945
|Internationals||25 caps between 1966 and 1972
|Inducted||England v Wales (August 3, 2007)
The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.
There is an old joke in which three Welsh Rugby legends, in this case Mervyn Davies, Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies, stand on the banks of the River Taff in Cardiff, a stone’s throw from where Arms Park was and nowadays the Millennium Stadium.
“Let’s cross over the river here,” says Gerald. And the lightning fast winger, whose electric pace and beautifully balanced running left so many defenders for dead throughout his distinguished career, races lightly over the water.
“On my way,” says Gareth, and Wales’ greatest scrum half joins Gerald on the opposite bank. Mervyn goes to follow them and instantly plunges up to his waist in the chilling waters.
His two Wales colleagues start to laugh at the floundering forward. “He obviously didn’t know about the stepping stones,” says Gareth.
“What stepping stones?” asks Gerald.
Over the years that joke has been adapted to depict every great Wales player – including Mervyn Davies – as the God-like figure who can walk upon water.
But Gerald Davies and his fellow inductee onto the Wall of Fame, Barry John, did appear to be capable of near-miraculous feats in their pomp, when Wales ruled the Five Nations Championship throughout the 1970s.
John scored 81 points in 25 appearances for Wales. He was the silkiest and most elusive of runners, perfectly balanced and possessed of some kind of foresight that allowed him to see where a gap was about to appear in a defensive line, so he could ghost through before the mere mortals in the opposition were aware of the chink.
He could also kick off either foot and his superb footballing brain enabled him to use feet and head for some of the most devilish of tactical kicks. And that was with a leather ball, which was not coated in a plastic laminate to render it waterproof but would soak up moisture and grow heavier and less aerodynamic as the game wore on. Yet still John produced masterful kicks that repeatedly turned opponents back and set up Wales in superb attacking positions.
John never played on a losing Wales team against England at Twickenham. In 1968 his drop goal helped ensure Wales escaped with an 11-11 draw. Two years later he scored a try and landed an other drop goal as Wales emerged 17-13 victors, and on his last appearance John kicked a conversion and two penalties in a 12-3 victory.
Dubbed ‘The King’, Barry John is still revered, and rightly so, throughout Wales.
Article by Dai Llewellyn