The greatest centres of all time: Bleddyn Williams
Bleddyn Williams led Wales to a 13-8 win over New Zealand in 1953, a feat yet to repeat itself. The win was just one of many achievements, that made him one of the greatest centres of all time
Major teams: Cardiff
Test span: 1947-55
Wales caps: 22 (22 starts)
Lions caps: 5 (5 starts)
Test points: 24 (8T)
That was just another chapter of Williams’s astounding ‘boy’s own’ story. A player Gareth Edwards idolised as a boy, Williams was born in Taffs Well, a few miles outside Cardiff and was one of eight brothers who all played for the Black and Blues.
He was schooled in North Wales and, while showing sporting aptitude, with the onset of the Second World War he trained as a fighter pilot and took part in many Parachute and Commando campaigns. At one point he crashed in a ditch in Germany and slept under a parachute for a week before making it back to play for Great Britain against the Dominions at Welford Road, where he scored a glorious try.
He joined Cardiff after the war, turning down a lucrative offer to play rugby league and forming a celebrated pairing with Jack Matthews. In all he played 283 times for Cardiff, scoring 185 tries, including a record 41 tries in 1947-48. Powerfully built for his era, Williams was blessed with a turn of pace and a jink that was only bettered by Gerald Davies in the red of Wales.
The late and great Cliff Morgan said of him: “He taught us the old-fashioned principles of courtesy and courage. His love of the open, running game set him apart: his glorious sidestep, his perfectly timed pass, his speed and strength, made him a very special world-class centre.”
That class and cerebral back play saw Williams crowned the ‘Prince of Centres’ in an eight-year international career. Williams was also to tour with the Lions as vice-captain in Australia and New Zealand in 1950. He played in three Tests, and 20 out of the 29 games on the six-month tour, despite travelling with a knee injury.
After retiring in 1955, Williams, who became an MBE in 2005, became a respected rugby journalist, writing for the Sunday People for 30 years. A former president of his beloved Cardiff RFC, he passed away in 2009 aged 86.