Six Nations

JJ Williams, a star of Lions' 1974 series win over Springboks, dies at 72

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JJ Williams was lauded as one of the "greatest wings" to have played for Wales and the British and Irish Lions after his death at the age of 72 was announced Thursday.

A lethal finisher who became an emblematic figure of the golden era of Welsh rugby in the 1970s, Williams scored 12 tries in 30 Tests for Wales.

Williams also helped Wales win four titles in the then-Five Nations, including two Grand Slams, in 1976 and 1978.

"JJ Williams, one of the greatest wings to play for Llanelli, Wales and the British and Irish Lions, has died at the age of 72," said the Welsh Rugby Union.

A former sprinter who competed for Wales at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, Williams, born John James but known as JJ to distinguish him from Wales full-back team-mate John Peter Rhys (JPR) Williams, also scored five tries in seven Tests for the British and Irish Lions across two tours.

Four of those scores came during a 3-0 series win over the Springboks in the centrepiece of the 1974 Lions unbeaten tour of South Africa.

"We have lost a true legend of the game -- RIP JJ Williams," said the Lions. "A man who inspired a generation with his incredible running and finishing abilities.

"The Welsh winger was a key member of our famous 1974 and 1977 tours, delivering commanding performances across seven Tests."

Williams' tally of five tries in seven Tests for the Lions -- he also scored one against New Zealand in 1977 -- is second only to Ireland great Tony O'Reilly's total of six during the tours of 1955 and 1959.

Saturday marks the 48th anniversary of Llanelli's celebrated 9-3 win over the All Blacks, a game in which Williams played, when the town also plays host to the coronavirus-delayed Six Nations international between Wales and Scotland.

"We are deeply saddened to hear that our former player JJ Williams has passed away," said a Llanelli statement. "JJ played 223 games for Llanelli RFC in nine seasons at Stradey Park.

"Our thoughts are with JJ's family, many friends and former team-mates at this sad time. A true great of Welsh rugby."

Williams is survived by his wife and children, including son Rhys who followed in his father's athletic footsteps by becoming the 2012 European 400 metres hurdles champion.

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