Grand Slam coach Rowlands dies aged 85

Grand Slam coach Rowlands dies aged 85

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Former Wales captain, coach, manager and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) president Clive Rowlands has died aged 85.

Rowlands, whose nous earned him the nickname ‘Top Cat’, coached Wales from 1968-1974 and guided them to the Triple Crown in 1969 and Grand Slam in 1971.

A qualified teacher, he captained Wales from scrum-half in each of his 14 Test appearances from 1963-1965.

He played for Pontypool, Llanelli and Swansea before turning to coaching, winning 18 of his 29 games with Wales.

Rowlands, renowned for his passion and motivational methods as a coach, later moved into rugby administration and managed Wales when they finished third at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

Two years later he filled a similar role as the British and Irish Lions beat Australia 2-1 down under.

He was also president of the WRU in 1989-90 during a period of controversy in the game in Wales.

British and Irish Lions assistant coach Roger Uttley, coach Ian McGeechan and team manager Clive Rowlands on the 1989 tour
Clive Rowlands (right) was team manager for the 1989 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia alongside coach Ian McGeechan (centre) and his assistant Roger Uttley

Away from sport Rowlands was a keen promoter of the Welsh language and a regular and insightful commentator on BBC Radio Cymru.

He successfully overcame serious illness twice in his life, spending two years in a sanatorium as a child recovering from tuberculosis – a disease that claimed his sister Megan’s life – then in the early 1990s he overcame bowel cancer.

He played club rugby at scrum-half for Abercraf before his spells with Pontypool, Llanelli and Swansea.

In spite of his success and fame in Wales, Rowlands’ heart was in his tiny home village of Upper Cwmtwrch in the Swansea Valley, where he lived until his death.

‘What a Welshman he was’

Legendary Wales and Lions fly-half Barry John was among those to pay tribute, saying: “What a Welshman he was.

‘Welsh rugby, and the Welsh Rugby Union in particular, owes him a huge debt of gratitude for his huge contribution to the game as player, coach and administrator.

‘When he walked into the dressing room before a game he didn’t talk about what we were going to do and how we were going to play. All the chat was about the Welsh factor.

“He never overplayed it, although I remember being at Twickenham for a game against England when he told us it was such an important game “that even the dogs are barking in Welsh”.

“He had the belief that when he sent his team on to the field they all knew how lucky they were to be playing for Wales. In his eyes, 15 Welshmen were always better than any opposition.

“Clive was abrasive, confident and Welsh to the core.

“He was made for the Wales coach job. He was also fortunate a group of good players turned up with a similar mindset, but his involvement was key to our success.

“With his death, a genuine chunk of Welsh life has gone.”

Former Wales and Lions centre John Devereux wrote: “Wales has lost another great man, Clive played a big part in my career for Wales and for the Lions.

“The tour to Oz in 89 was a great tour and he was a great team manager. Rest in peace my old friend.”

Rowlands’ village club Cwmtwrch also paid tribute to their former trustee, life member and president, writing: “Clive’s passion for Cwmtwrch was second to none, he elaborated so much on the unique Upper and Lower sections of the village that it became well known the world over.”

The Lions said: “All our thoughts are with the family and friends of Clive Rowlands.

“A true Welsh rugby legend, Clive managed the Lions on our Tour of Australia in 1989 and will be greatly missed by the entire rugby community.”

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