Clive Rowlands: Former Wales captain, coach, president and Lions manager dies, aged 85

Clive Rowlands (right) with British Lions scrum half Robert Jones - Clive Rowlands: Former Wales captain, coach, president and Lions manager dies, aged 85

Clive Rowlands (right) coached the Lions to a hard-fought series victory in Australia, 1989 – Getty Images/Bob Thomas

Clive Rowlands, the former Wales captain who coached his national side to the Grand Slam in 1971 and was also manager of the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 1989, has died. He was 85.

Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and capable coaches of his generation which earned him the nickname ‘Top Cat’, Rowlands also became a brilliant administrator, managing Wales at the inaugural World Cup in 1987 when they finished in third place, before becoming WRU president in 1990 in turbulent times.

As a scrum-half Rowlands, who played for Pontypool, Llanelli and Swansea, captained Wales in all of his 14 appearances for his country between 1963 to 1965 before becoming head coach three years later.

His first success as coach came when Wales won the Triple Crown in 1969 before the Grand Slam followed two years later. But perhaps most significantly he laid the foundations for the greatest era of Welsh rugby later in the decade.

Wales won 18 of his 29 games in charge and Welsh legends such as Sir Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams praised his coaching influence and passion which benefited the Lions in 1989, when the tourists defeated Australia 2-1 in a hard-fought and bloodied series.

Roger Uttley, Ian McGeechan and Clive Rowlands (from left to right) during the 1989 British Lions tour of Australia

Rowlands (right) coached the British Lions alongside Roger Uttley (left) and Sir Ian McGeechan in the 1989 British Lions tour of Australia – colorsport/Andrew Cowie

Rowlands was also known as a supporter of the Welsh language and contributed to BBC Radio Cymru as a commentator.

Tributes poured in from across the game, with former Wales and Lions fly-half Barry John describing him as “Welsh to the core.”

“What a Welshman he was,” wrote John. “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.”

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