Former Wales and British and Irish Lions full-back Terry Davies dies

The Welsh rugby community is in mourning after former British and Irish Lion Terry Davies died at the age of 87.

Davies died on Thursday after he was admitted to hospital at the beginning of the year.

On the eve of the current Lions squad’s deciding Test match in South Africa, tributes flooded in for the former tourist, who finished as top points-scorer on the 1959 trip to Australia and New Zealand.

WalesOnline carried quotes from Davies’ son, Richard, who said: “He was just a fantastic father and a fantastic guy.

“You would not wish to have a better dad. He was good-natured and supportive all the way.

“He did loads of work for Llanelli, for the Scarlets, for Bynea, for the village he lived in. He grew up in the village and built a house there. He raised money for community projects and was awarded an MBE for his services to Bynea and Llanelli.

“He really enjoyed his life. He did everything he wanted.”

Davies made his rugby breakthrough as an 18-year-old with Swansea and earned his Test debut for Wales two years later, turning out against England in the 1953 Five Nations.

A shoulder injury the following summer threatened the flying full-back’s career and kept him out of action for three seasons, moving to Llanelli in 1956 when his resurgence began.

Davies earned a recall to the Wales squad in 1957 and was subsequently summoned by the Lions for their tour of Australia and New Zealand two years later.

Injuries again played their part as Davies was restricted to playing in only 13 of their 31 matches during that expedition, though he nevertheless finished as the tour’s top overall points-scorer.

He finished the trip with 21 conversions and 15 penalties to his name and started in two of the four Tests against New Zealand, including their 9-6 victory in the tour-ending encounter.

A timber merchant and later saw mill owner by trade, Davies opened up on the significance of that visit to the southern hemisphere: “That 1959 tour was huge for me. I got injured early on and then had to climb back into the team again.

“It was magnificent playing for the Lions. It meant you’d reached the top of the ladder. It was a very long Tour, six months practically. I had to give up my business to go on the Tour.

“And very few people had any wages out of it. We lived on 10 shillings a day, which is 50p in modern money, but we managed and we had an absolutely magnificent Tour.”

Davies added: “It seemed that the whole of New Zealand had come out to meet us. New Zealand was definitely one of the places I would have emigrated to if I was that way inclined.”

Having left Swansea for Llanelli in 1956, Davies went on to retire with the latter, who joined in the adulations for their former star:

Famed for being a hard-hitting last line of defence, the Llwynhendy native was also renowned among full-backs for his kicking range out of hand, as well as from the tee.

Davies earned 21 caps for Wales between 1953 and 1961 despite his recurring injury problems and concluded his international career by captaining the team against France.

In the foreword to his autobiography, The Terry Davies Story – Wales's First Superstar Fullback , legendary Welsh scrum-half Gareth Edwards wrote: “We would go along to grounds such as St Helen’s, The Gnoll and Stradey Park to watch our heroes of the day.

“As kids at the end of games, you had a wonderful opportunity, especially down at Stradey Park, to run onto the field and try to get an autograph. I can remember, vividly, getting Terry’s.

“It was a wonderful experience as he was someone who stood out for me from a lot of exceptional players who were around at that time.”

High praise from one of rugby’s most celebrated stars and another Welsh icon, signifying the impact Davies had even despite the obstacles he faced throughout his career.

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