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United in mourning

St Mary’s Church, Whitchurch, was filled to overflowing for the funeral of the WRU President, Keith Rowlands. There were enough ex-internationals in the congregation to fill two dream teams and a host of high ranking officials from all walks of rugby life.

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It was a gathering the like of which is rarely seen and one which emphasised for Jean Rowlands, and her daughter Joanne, just how highly regarded her husband was.

David Pickering and Roger Lewis led the WRU mourners and Life Vice Patron Sir Tasker Watkins was joined by two other ex-Presidents, Des Barnett and Clive Rowlands, former chairman Glanmor Griffiths and three ex-Secretaries of the Union, Ray Williams, David East and Denis Gethin.

The All Blacks were out in force, led by their President Jock Hobbs and team manager Sir Brian Lochore. Chief Executive Chris Moller sat next to former Wales coaches Graham Henry and Steve Hansen.

The new Scottish Rugby Union President Andy Irvine was joined by Ken Smith from north of the border, while two former RFU Presidents, Bob Taylor and Leroy Angel, led an English delegation that included former IRB member John Jeavons-Fellows and former England skipper Nigel Melville.

The Irish sent the 1959 Lions skipper Ronnie Dawson, the French were represented by former Rugby World Cup director Marcel Martin and Six Nations chairman Jacques Laurans, while the Six Nations Chief Executive John Feehan also flew in from Dublin.

The Barbarians had their President Micky Steele-Bodger and Secretary Geoff Windsor-Lewis in attendance and the IRB chairman, Syd Millar, joined the funeral at the crematorium.

There were strong representations from all the clubs and bodies that Keith had played for and worked with, included Cardiff RFC, Rhwibina RFC and Aberdare RFC, the Wales Deaf RU and Welsh Academicals.

Two members of the Welsh XV that played against France in 1962, when Keith won his first cap, were there to say farewell – D Ken Jones and David Nash – and there were three representatives from the Triple Crown winning side of 1965, led by Keith’s lifelong friend, the skipper Clive Rowlands, John Dawes and Stuart Watkins.

Other ex-Welsh internationals in attendance were the Cardiff contingent of Gareth Griffiths, Alan Priday, Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Rob Norster, Ian Robinson, Derwyn Jones and Nigel Walker; Newport’s Brian Jones, Llanelli’s Onllwyn Brace and Stuart Gallacher, Bridgend’s John Lloyd, Neath’s Dai Morris and Paul Thorburn, Swansea’s Roger Blyth and London Welsh’s Geoff Evans.

The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Neale, was joined by his chief executive, Byron Davies, and the service was conducted by Canon John Rowlands.

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