By Jack Vavasour
This year Faf de Klerk has been nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year and his performances this year have been outstanding. However, no scrum-half seems to have dominated the sport as much as Gareth Edwards.
In a pre-professional age, amongst a Welsh side that instilled fear into the hearts of all that faced them, Edwards was at the centre of Wales’ brilliance.
Edwards made his debut against France in 1967 at just 19 years of age, he would not miss a Welsh match until his retirement in 1978, winning a total of 53 caps for his country. In this time he would also win 10 Lions caps and 7 Five Nations Championships, 3 of which were Grand Slams. Edwards is often regarded amongst some of the greatest players of all time due to his all-round ability and impressive record as a player.
Edwards first captained Wales just a year after his debut, when he was only 20 years old. This makes him Wales’ youngest captain ever. Edwards was aided in his career due to the fantastic players who surrounded him, however, there is no doubt that Edwards was the star and stood out amongst other greats.
Playing his rugby for Cardiff R.F.C, Edwards felt at home at The Arms Park and was fortunate enough to begin his International career with club team-mate, Barry John, partnering him at Fly-half. John and Edwards would prove inseparable for many years, being selected for Wales and then together on two Lions tours in 1968 and 1971.
John ended his career prematurely in 1972, many feared that Edwards and Wales had lost a key component of a Grand Slam winning side. Instead, John’s retirement had merely paved the way for another fantastic fly-half, Phil Bennett, to enter the International circuit and partner Edwards.
Both Bennett and John are considered as two of the greatest fly-halves that Wales have ever produced, however, they were both lucky to be aided by the brilliance of Edwards. These strong half-back partnerships were the basis of Wales’ ‘Golden Age’ which also hosted players such as J.P.R Williams, Gerald Davies and J.J Williams. Edwards, with 20 tries for Wales, epitomised the kind of attacking rugby that made this side the best of their generation, and one of the best of all time.
Edwards, will be remembered as one, if not the, greatest player of all time and to go with this title Edwards also scored what is considered as the greatest try of all time. Ironically, this try didn’t come in a Welsh jersey, but whilst playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973. Edwards was at the peak of his powers and following a magnificent build up consisting of numerous offloads, Edwards popped up, out of nowhere, to outpace the All Blacks’ defence and dive over in the corner.
Had the World Cup been around during Edwards’ time as a player then Wales would probably have a title to their name, sadly for Edwards and all Welshmen the tournament only began in 1987. Still, Edwards claimed every title that was available to him during his career and can be considered as a true great and hero of Welsh and British rugby.