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Gareth Edwards I’view (Kimmage)

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    Gareth Edwards I’view (Kimmage)

    Leader of the backs
    The Big Interview: Gareth Edwards

    Paul Kimmage

    I apologised for asking a trite, predictable question that he [Cliff Morgan] had doubtless been asked a thousand times before; on the other hand, it had to be asked. Where did he place the Edwards try [the Barbarians’ coruscating effort against the All Blacks in January 1973 in Cardiff] in the pantheon of all the great tries he had seen, and indeed scored?

    “Well, I suppose it has been watched more than any other try in history,” he mused. “I have seen other fabulous tries, but this was a great team try, Bennett starting it off on his own 25, with adventure . . . Willie John McBride, one of the most unbelievable men you’ll ever meet in your life, says Bennett for him was the best. When something wanted to be done, he could do it.”

    And what of Edwards, the scorer? Morgan smiled and leant forward fractionally in his armchair: “The greatest rugby player ever born, in any position, anywhere in the world.” — Ali, Pele, Lillee and Me by Brian Viner

    IT IS a Tuesday afternoon at Cardiff rugby club and the greatest rugby player ever born, in any position, anywhere in the world, is trying to get to grips with my first question as the coffee is poured. “How does it feel to be Gareth Edwards at the age of 60?” is the kind of appetiser I often serve to get interviews rolling and I am expecting the usual response — a “not bad” or a “can’t complain” or “it could be worse”.

    Gareth Edwards, however, has never done usual. “Phewww,” he exhales, chewing on the words and rolling them around his mouth. He repeats the question: “How does it feel to be Gareth Edwards at 60?” He thinks about it again. “I never really appreciated that rugby would play such an important part in my life,” he begins, “and certainly after I retired from the game . . .” He pauses to reflect again.

    He is reminded of the day he decided that he did not want to become a teacher . . . “Teaching practice was the start of it, just being among the kids and realising, ‘God! Can I do this? How am I going to cope?’ The thought of doing it for the rest of my life did not turn me on and it was highlighted for me by the vice-principal of the college, Eric Thomas, a beautifully dressed, articulate man who loved the students and his job.

    “One day he gave us this informal lecture. ‘Gentlemen,’ he said, ‘your rewards from teaching won’t be monetary, they will come from your inner self. Love it and it will give you great satisfaction but if you don’t, get out, because it will only destroy you’. It was a huge release and burden off my shoulders. I got out.”

    He is reminded of his father, Granville, and the sacrifices he made. “My father was away for five years and lost a great part of his life through the war. He was quite a talented singer and there were opportunities for him at the end of the war, but he came back to the village and his employment was as a miner. People say to me now, ‘Gareth, you’ve got to slow down, you’re doing too much’, but I often think of my father.

    “He used to get up at four to be in work at six. He would work his eight-hour shift and somebody might say, ‘Glan, there’s a chance for you to work a doubler’, and he would take it and carry on. I never appreciated how hard it was until later when I went underground and visited a mine. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It was a bloody gruesome thing.”

    He is reminded of his decision to start a career in management with Jack Hamer, a Neath businessman who was involved in engineering and manufacturing, and spurn the fortunes being offered by rugby league. “I loved my Welsh way of life. I loved my friends. I wanted to play for Wales and wasn’t motivated by money. They were offering a huge amount and I did consider it but Jack said, ‘Look, why don’t you come and work for me? I can’t promise you’ll be a millionaire but you will have a job, you’ll have time off to do what


    Nice one Flycaster. Edwards was a magnificent player in a magnificient Welsh team. That was when most of the eight forwards on either side were committed to every ruck and maul and there was room for the backs to operate with silky running and stepping. Wingers didnt have to be 6'4" and 16 stone to be effective. The great Gerald Davies was at a guess, 5'9" & 12 Stone, but could he move. IMO that type of game played by professionals would be fabulous.
    Anybody who sees a psychiatrist would want their head examined.*&nb sp;Henry Ford