Welsh rugby legend Barry John, nicknamed 'The King', dies in hospital aged 79

4 February 2024, 17:05 | Updated: 4 February 2024, 17:23

Barry John has died in hospital aged 79, his family say.
Barry John has died in hospital aged 79, his family say. Picture: Getty

By Chay Quinn

Welsh rugby legend Barry John, nicknamed 'The King', has died in hospital aged 79.

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The former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half died peacefully in hospital, his family announced in a statement on Sunday.

A family statement read: "Barry John died peacefully today at the University Hospital of Wales surrounded by his loving wife and four children.

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"He was a loving Dadcu to his 11 grandchildren and much-loved brother."

John made 25 caps for Wales across a six-year international career in which he also represented the British Lions four times away in South Africa - and once in Cardiff faced a touring Springboks side.

In his amateur club career, John represented Cefneithin RFC, Llanelli RFC, Cardiff RFC and Barbarian F.C.

Barry John
Barry John. Picture: Getty
Barry John and Janet Talfan Davies on their wedding day, 28th September 1969.
Barry John and Janet Talfan Davies on their wedding day, 28th September 1969. Picture: Getty

Nicknamed 'The King' by New Zealand journalists after he famously orchestrated the All Blacks' downfall during an unforgettable Test series against the 1971 British and Irish Lions, John was rugby royalty in anyone's language.

A miner's son from Carmarthenshire, John, who has died at the age of 79, enjoyed a spectacular career at club and international level.

John announced a shock retirement after only six years in 1972 - citing pressures of fame and expectation as he stepped down before his 28th birthday.

But John's impact on the sport could never be understated as an imperious fly-half whose seemingly-effortless ability to beat defenders often defied logic and gained him worldwide admiration.

In his autobiography, John's famed half-back partner Sir Gareth Edwards wrote: "He (John) had this marvellous easiness in the mind, reducing problems to their simplest form, backing his own talent all the time.

"One success on the field bred another and soon he gave off a cool superiority which spread to others in the side."

And another revered Wales and Lions colleague, Gerald Davies, said: "Whilst the hustle and bustle went on around him, he could divorce himself from it all.

Barry John (second from right) was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame for his stellar career.
Barry John (second from right) was inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame for his stellar career. Picture: Getty

"He kept his emotions in check and a careful rein on the surrounding action. The game would go according to his will and no-one else's."

Born in the village of Cefneithin to William and Vimy John, he was one of six children. All three of his brothers - Delville, Alan and Clive - played rugby.

John began his career at Llanelli, making a first team debut against Moseley two days before his 19th birthday in 1964. Two years later, he was capped by Wales and in 1967 he moved to Cardiff, where a partnership with Edwards quickly began to flourish.

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