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50 up for the 1971 Grand Slammers

The Welsh Grand Slam team in Paris in 1971

50 up for the 1971 Grand Slammers

Saturday, 27 March, 2021 will go down as a double celebration in Welsh rugby history – the day Alun Wyn Jones received the Guinness Six Nations title and the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Grand Slam.

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There could have been no better day for the current Welsh side to receive their trophy after a magnificent campaign. There may not have been a Grand Slam in Paris after a sensational battle with the French, but the Scottish victory at Stade de France ensured Alun Wyn Jones could not only receive the trophy, but also go out on his own in Six Nations history with five title.

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There was no trophy for John Dawes’ team of all the talents in 1971. They went to Paris to complete their clean sweep and triumphed 9-5 in an epic encounter at Stade Colombes.

Two years earlier they had drawn in Paris as they picked up a Triple Crown and won the title.

But on their return they were a different side, a team determined to make a statement to the rest of the rugby world.

If 1969 had been the dawn of a new Golden Era, 1971 was the start of it!


16 January, 1971 – Wales 22 – 6 England
JPR Williams; Gerald Davies, John Dawes (captain), Arthur Lewis, John Bevan; Barry John, Gareth Edwards; Barry Llewlleyn, Jeff Young, Denzil Williams, Delme Thomas, Mike Roberts, Dai Morris, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies
Reps: Ian Hall, Phil Bennett, Ray Hopkins, John Lloyd, Norman Rees, Derek Quinnell
Scorers: T: Gerald Davies 2, John Bevan; C: John Taylor 2; P: JPR Williams; DG: Barry John

England: Peter Rossborough; Jeremy Janion, Chris Wardlow, John Spencer, David Duckham; Ian Wright, Jaco Page; David Powell, John Pullin, Keith Fairbrother, Peter Larter, Barry Innes, Tony Bucknell (captain), Tony Neary, Charlie Hannaford
Reps: Peter Glover, Dick Cowman, Nigel Starmer-Smith, Andy Johnson, Fran Cotton, Peter Dixon
Scorers: T: Charlie Hannaford; P: Peter Rossborough

Referee: Paddy D’Arcy (Ireland)

6 February, 1971 – Scotland 18 – 19 Wales
Ian Smith; Billy Steele, John Frame, Chris Rea, Alastair Biggar; Jock Turner, Duncan Paterson; Ian McLauchlan, Frank Laidlaw, Sandy Carmichael, Alastair McHarg, Gordon Brown, Nairn MacEwan, Rodger Arneil, Peter Brown (captain)
Reps: Ronnie Hannah, Brian Summers, Ian McCrae, Bobby Clark, Hamish Bryce, Gordon Strachan
Scorers: T: Sandy Carmichael, Chris Rea; P: Peter Brown 4

Wales: JPR Williams; Gerald Davies, John Dawes (captain), Ian Hall, John Bevan; Barry John, Gareth Edwards; Barry Llewlleyn, Jeff Young, Denzil Williams, Delme Thomas, Mike Roberts, Dai Morris, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies
Reps: Phil Bennett, Ray Hopkins, John Lloyd, Norman Rees, Derek Quinnell
Scorers: T: John Taylor, Gareth Edwards, Barry John, Gerald Davies; C: Barry John, John Taylor; P: Barry John

Referee: Mike Titcomb (England)

13 March, 1971 – Wales 23 – 9 Ireland
JPR Williams; Gerald Davies, John Dawes (captain), Arthur Lewis, John Bevan; Barry John, Gareth Edwards; Barry Llewlleyn, Jeff Young, Denzil Williams, Delme Thomas, Mike Roberts, Dai Morris, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies
Reps: Ian Hall, Bob Phillips, Ray Hopkins, John Lloyd, Norman Rees, Derek Quinnell
Scorers: T: Gerald Davies 2, Gareth Edwards 2; C: Barry John; P: Barry John 2; DG: Barry John

Ireland: Barry O’Driscoll; Alan Duggan, Barry Bresnihan, Mike Gibson (captain), Edwin Grant; Barry McGann, Roger Young; Ray McLoughlin, Ken Kennedy, Sean Lynch, Willie-John McBride, Mick Molloy, Michael Hipwell, Fergus Slattery, Denis Hickie
Reps: John Moloney, David Barry, Harold Steele, Noel Dwyer, Dick Milliken, J.A. Jackson
Scorer: P: Mike Gibson 3

Referee: Johnnie Johnson (England)

27 March, 1971 – France 5 – 9 Wales

France: Pierre Villepreux; Roger Bourgarel, Roland Bertranne, Jean-Pierre Lux, Jack Cantoni; Jean-Louis Berot, Max Barrau; Jean Iracabal, Rene Benesis, Michel Lasserre, Walter Spanghero, Claude Spanghero, Pierre Biemouret, Christian Carrere (captain), Benoit Dauga
Scorer: T: Benoit Dauga; C: Pierre Villepreux

JPR Williams; Gerald Davies, John Dawes (captain), Arthur Lewis, John Bevan; Barry John, Gareth Edwards; Barry Llewlleyn, Jeff Young, Denzil Williams, Delme Thomas, Mike Roberts, Dai Morris, John Taylor, Mervyn Davies
Reps: Ian Hall, Bob Phillips, Ray Hopkins, John Lloyd, Norman Rees, Derek Quinnell
Scorers: T: Gareth Edwards, Barry John; P: Barry John

Referee: John Young (Scotland)

One of the heroes of the season was the London Welsh flanker, John Taylor, who famously kicked the conversion at Murrayfield from a wide angle in the dying moments to haul his side back from the brink of defeat. Now 75, he spent last weekend cheering on Wales in Paris hoping they could repeat the Welsh success of 50 years ago.

Three days later he went into hospital to have a hip replacement operation. That’s where we caught up with him, thankfully recovering well and getting ready to walk again, to get his thoughts on the achievements of the sides of 1971 and 2021.

Taylor made his Wales debut against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1967 in an 11-5 defeat to the Scots. That was the first of 26 caps won by the London welsh flanker, who also toured with the 1968 and 1971 British & Irish Lions. He played in all four Tests in New Zealand in the series win in 1971, crowning a magnificent year for him and so many of his Welsh team mates.


“What they have done in this Six Nations campaign has been simply fantastic. To get it back all together after last year and win the title against so many odds is an incredible achievement. Huge credit to them and isn’t Alun Wyn an amazing character and leader?

“I would put this side alongside where we were in 1969 when we won the Triple Crown and the title, drawing with France in Paris. This could be the launch-pad season for them and Wayne Pivac and his coaching team deserve a lot of credit for what they have achieved.

“In 1971 it was the start of a second Golden Era for Welsh rugby with three Grand Slams, a fourth title and a share of a fifth in eight years. What we’ve seen from Wales recently shows we are in another great era, with this title making it six in the Six Nations.

“The season also had a bonus in that we saw the emergence of Louis Rees-Zammit, who hadn’t really been on the radar before.”


“In 1967 it was pre-coaching days and Wales weren’t doing very well. I was picked out of nowhere for a trial and found myself in the ‘Impossibles’ side as we called them, playing alongside John Hickey and Tony Pender in the back row. I was moved up into the ‘Probables’ for the second half, swapping places with a very disgruntled Omri Jones, and then found myself being picked to play in Scotland.

“The selectors wanted to make sweeping changes and I took over from the very experienced Haydn Morgan in the back row. I flew up to Edinburgh from Heathrow and so the first time I really met the players I was going to play with for Wales was the day before the game. The captain was Alun Pask, my schoolboy hero, and I can remember apologising to him for wanting to call him ‘Mr Pask’ rather than Alun.

“I was one of six new caps at Murrayfield. Billy Hullin started at scrum half and he was one of three different No 9s I played with in my first three games for Wales. Allan Lewis played in my next game and then Gareth Edwards. It didn’t change after that!

“David Nash came in as the first Wales coach in 1968 and then Clive Rowlands took over in 1969. That was a huge turning point for the game in Wales. JPR Williams and Mervyn Davies came into the team in 1969 and we had a good season, winning the Triple Crown and drawing in Paris with France.

“Having won the title, and got a bit of a taste for some success, we started to feel we were quite a decent outfit. Then we went on tour to New Zealand and Australia and got beaten in the two Tests by the All Blacks by 19 points in each game. They put us firmly back in our box. Any thoughts of us being a good side were blown out of the water.

“But what happened to us in 1969 developed a steely determination to actually achieve something. By 1971 we felt we had to win a Grand Slam to prove ourselves worthy of being considered to be a good Welsh side. We also started steering our thoughts to the Lions tour to New Zealand. We knew we had to do something against a southern hemisphere team to be taken seriously.”


Wales went into the Five Nations as joint champions with the French from the previous season and got their campaign off to a flying start against an England team that had eight new caps. There were two tries for Gerald Davies and a third for fellow wing John Bevan. There were also two conversions from a certain John Taylor. So how did the back row flyer turn into a goalkicker?

“I’d been a centre at school and always done the goalkicking. I was a toe end kicker to begin with, but then developed my round the corner style with my left foot. Colin Gibbons was the regular goalkicker at London welsh, but when he went through a rough patch I thought I’d give it a go.

“Wales had had Keith Jarrett to kick when I first came into the team, but then he went to rugby league. When Barry John started at Llanelli it was Terry Price who kicked the goals. When he went to Cardiff it took time before he turned into their regular kicker.

“I used to pull JPR’s leg about Wales maybe looking for a specialist goalkicking full back instead of him. That always got him going. In the end, Clive Rowlands settled on using Barry on the left and me on the right.

“I got two conversions from pretty wide out on the right hand side against England and they became important for me psychologically as the season progressed. It was a good win over England, but there again so many of that side never lost to them!”



One of the greatest Five Nations games of all time. Could the rugged Scots hold Wales and scupper their Triple Crown and Grand Slam ambitions? The Scots had been beaten 13-8 in Paris in their opening game. The only change in the two teams from Round 1 was Ian Hall coming in for the injured Arthur Lewis at centre for Wales. Scottish skipper Peter Brown kicked a record four penalties for his country against Wales, but then hit the upright with a simple conversion. That left the door open for Wales, who had already scored three tries, and they somehow kept their composure in a seething cauldron at Murrayfield to pull off a remarkable victory in front of an estimated crowd of 100,000 – 30,000 of who were Welsh!

“What a game, what a win! I picked a great day to score a good try and then grab the headlines with that conversion. But winning was the real bonus because had Peter Brown kicked the conversion of Chris Rea’s try, as he really should have done, Scotland would have gone six points clear of us instead of four.

John Taylor scores at Murrayfield

“I always felt we were the better side, but we kept on making uncharacteristic mistakes. Delme Thomas never knocked the ball back from a line-out a few metres from our line, but in this game he did and Sandy Carmichael came through to score. Then Chris Rea danced through to score a try that was a real comedy of errors.

“Time was running out, but John Dawes told us all that there were still two minutes to play and we were going to be OK. He had spoken to the referee, but he lied to us about how long was left. But it settled our nerves as we had that one final line-out in the Scottish 22.

“Delme won their throw and the backs came into full flow. JPR came into the line and Gerald Davies skirted around the defence and scored wide out on the right. It was my side of the pitch. Barry John claimed afterwards that I only got to take the kick because he was injured, but I was always going to take it.

“We didn’t have sports psychologists in those days, but I did pretty much what they tell you to do now. I reminded myself I had kicked the two conversions against England and that I could do it again. It was just a case of concentrating and executing things perfectly.

“I tried not to get ahead of myself in the process and kept telling myself I could do it. It did feel like I was either going to be a hero or villain and the one thing I was concerned about was suffering the ignominy of messing it up completely.

“It went over and it was an even bigger relief when the final whistle went. We were on our way back to Cardiff to face Ireland in a Triple Crown match.”


Triple Crown fever

No fewer than 10 of the Welsh team had played against the Irish in Dublin the previous season and ended up on the wrong end of a 14-0 thrashing. That had been the only defeat in the two previous seasons for Wales in the Five Nations. The Irish had drawn at home with the French and been pipped by Bob Hiller’s boot, 9-6, despite scoring two tries against England.

On the day in Cardiff they simply couldn’t handle Wales. A burst of 14 points in almost as many minutes in the second half guided Wales to Triple Crown glory and a 23-9 win. Two tries each for Gerald Davies and Gareth Davies sealed the deal, with Barry John chipping in with 11 points.

“The Irish were always a handful, but we were playing some good rugby and we had began to feel it was all coming together. Clive Rowlands stuck with a settled side and we realised that if we were going to be the ‘kiddies’ we had to win something and prove ourselves.

“The Triple Crown was the first step, but we knew it was the French who were our biggest rivals. I had played against them in Cardiff in 1968 when they won their first Grand Slam and that really was the start of them being taken seriously in the tournament.

“We knew we could and should beat Ireland and there was huge determination within the squad. The spirit was built on our results and the squad sessions we had down at the Afan Lido and on Aberavon Beach. We’d sometimes get a couple of thousand fans turning up to watch us on a Sunday and Clive Rowlands always wanted to play to the gallery and get us to show them what we could do.”



Two unbeaten sides turned up at Stade Colombes for what was the last meeting between the two teams at the 1924 Olympic Games venue, played out in front of a record 60,000 crowd.  In 1973, Wales made their bow at Parc des Princes. The French had shared the title with Wale sin 1970 and had drawn with Ireland and England away from home in 1971. They beat the Scots in their opening game in Paris and now had their sights set on ruining Wales’ Grand Slam party – just as they had done in 1965. Benoit Dauga scored a try that in this day and age the TMO would have ruled out and France led 5-0 at the break. Wales hit back with two tries and a penalty

 “Stade Colombes was a really historic arena and you used to get to the pitch via an underground tunnel. It wasn’t a high scoring game, but it was high quality. I just remember tackling my heart out and worrying they were going to overrun us given the way they started.

“But once we had weathered the early storm we got more control of the game. JPR made the interception that led to Gareth Edwards’ try and we did enough to win.

“The Grand Slam was the culmination for us of proving ourselves to be good enough to be considered among the greatest of Welsh sides. The game against Scotland and the win in Paris are among the three most memorable games in which I played. They were all in 1971 and the other one was the third test win with the Lions over New Zealand.”

The Grand Slam heroes return

John Bevan halted in Paris

John Taylor and Mervyn Davies hunting in tandem

John Dawes breaks through

Happy 50th Grand Slam Birthday, boys!

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