The former Neath prop was as renowned a scrummager in his playing days in the Fifties as Graham Price was in the Seventies and Eighties and Adam Jones in this century. He was the cornerstone of the British & Irish Lions pack that drew the Test series with South Africa in 1955, when he formed an all-Welsh front row with Bryn Meredith and Billy Williams.
He is not only the oldest living Welsh international, but also the sole survivor from the last Welsh team to beat New Zealand in 1953. That was his second cap and he went on to play for Wales in 18 internationals between 1953-57.
Born in Hopkinstown on 23 September, 1926, he moved to live in Crynant at a young age and became one of the many great players to be schooled in rugby at Neath Grammar. He then went on to Cardiff University and after graduating he did National Service in the RAF before going on to become a production engineer for the Steel Company of Wales at the Abbey Works.
It was only after transferring from Crynant to Neath that he moved from the back row into the front row. He was equally as good packing either side of the front row, but developed into one of the strongest tight-head props in the world game.
“I am delighted to send birthday greetings and best wishes to Courtenay from the WRU and the whole of Welsh rugby,” said WRU president, Gerald Davies.
“He was one of the truly world class players in the Welsh pack in the Fifties and was the cornerstone of the first all-Welsh front row for the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 1955.
“He is also, of course, the only surviving member of the last Welsh team to beat New Zealand in 1953. He won his second cap that day, when Wales triumphed 13-8.
“What better birthday gift could the current Welsh team and management offer to him than another victory when they meet the All Blacks in Cardiff on 30 October.”
Meredith is one of only 45 Welsh players who have played in a winning side over New Zealand for their country. Others have done in with the Lions and Barbarians, but it remains the Holy Grail for the current and future generations of Welshmen.
As for Courtenay Meredith, he has been there, done it and worn the T-Shirt on his own for far too long.