Caps off for RAF rugby heroes

Representatives of the Royal Air Force will be at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday 25 November, supporting the Welsh Rugby Union as Wales face New Zealand in an Autumn International.

The Welsh Rugby Union have delved into the archives to find past Welsh international players that had also served in the RAF.

In World War II Bleddyn Williams trained to fly with the RAF as a pilot. But he was also the outstanding centre three quarter of his generation, gaining his first Welsh cap against England in 1947.

Williams captained Wales on five occasions and each time Wales won. While he remained a brilliant player into the 1950s injuries did start to take their toll. His talent was such that he would have been a certain selection for the British Lions tour to South Africa in 1955 had not a selection policy been introduced that excluded all players over 30 years old. 

After retirement from playing Williams maintained his contact with rugby by writing about the game for the People newspaper for almost 40 years.

During his time in the RAF, Rhys Williams, or R.H as he was known to most, was an education officer. He was also a powerful second row forward who served his clubs, Llanelli and Cardiff, the RAF, his country Wales and the British Lions with great distinction.

He toured with the British Lions to South Africa in 1955 and to Australia and New Zealand in 1959. On those two tours R.H played in every test match, proving himself to be the cornerstone of the British forwards, holding his own with the giants of the Southern Hemisphere.

R.H captained Wales in 1960 against England in what was to prove to be his 23rd and last international match. Injury forced him into retirement but he was not lost to Welsh rugby, he became a member of the WRU’s Committee.

Sadly, Rhys died towards the end of the 1980s while still in his late fifties.

Malcolm Price gained his first cap against England in 1959 at just 21 years old. His talents saw him selected for the British Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1959.

Malcolm was blessed with natural pace and wonderful ball handling ability. His passing was often sublime. His talents saw him selected for the British Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1959. 

His service in the RAF prepared him at an early age for leadership and in 1960 he became captain of Pontypool RFC. In 1962 Malcolm accepted an offer to join Oldham in the Rugby League. He was an immediate success in the professional game. His quality was recognised when he was selected to play Rugby League for Great Britain.

Jeff Young developed his rugby skills at Garw Grammar School and St Lukes College, Exeter.

He trained to become a teacher and joined the education branch of the RAF, rising to the ranks to become a Wing Commander.

His great physical strength and sound scrummaging technique earned him 23 Welsh caps and selection for the British Lions tour to South Africa in 1968.

On retiring from playing Jeff became an outstanding coach.

On leaving the RAF in 1990 Jeff became the first Technical Director of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Sadly illness gripped Jeff and he died in his early sixties.

After leaving school Gareth Griffiths went into the RAF to complete his National Service.

In January 1953, he gained his first cap when playing against England. He was a member of both the Cardiff and Wales teams that famously defeated the All Blacks and in early 1954 he scored a try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks.

Off the field Gareth’s career evolved quickly. He started work as a teacher before he moved into public relations and then general management. As a businessman with a great sporting heritage Gareth played a significant part in Welsh public life at the end of the twentieth century.

Born and bred in Blaenavon, Ken Jones  played his senior rugby down the valley for Newport RFC. He showed considerable talents that resulted in him being selected for Wales in 1947 and in 1950 for the British Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand.

He was a wing three-quarter of exceptional speed. That speed was shown on the athletics track as well as on the rugby field.

Between 1946 and 1953 Jones won a variety of Welsh sprint titles and was a member of the British relay squad that won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 1948.

During the Second World War Jones served in India as a sergeant in the RAF.

His international rugby career was a long one. He gained his first cap against England in 1947 and his final cap came in 1957.

When he retired from international rugby he had secured 44 caps, which was then a record, one that stood for 15 years or more.