Wales legend Dr Jack Matthews dies
July 19, 2012
Jack Matthews touches down for Wales against France in the 1950 Five Nations Championsip. © PA Photos
Legendary Welsh centre Dr Jack Matthews has died aged 92.
Matthews was part of a legendary Welsh midfield partnership alongside Bleddyn Williams during the late 1940s and early 1950s. A General Practitioner by profession, the former Newport and Cardiff star Matthews was also a doctor on the British & Irish Lions' tour of South Africa in 1980.
Matthews, who was made an OBE in 2001, played 17 times for Wales and skippered the side against France in Paris in 1951. He was also captain of Cardiff for four seasons. He played six Test matches for the Lions on the 1950 tour of Australia and New Zealand, earning the nick-name "Iron Man" for his crash tackling. His career was curtalied by the Second World War.
"Jack was one of the very greatest you know but lost a lot of his international career to the War," commented his long-term friend and team-mate Williams shortly before his death in 2009. "Everybody knows how tough he was but I played countless games with him and he was a beautiful passer, bloody quick, and a magnificent captain. He made Cardiff the side they were."
Born in Bridgend, South Wales in 1920, Matthews attended Bridgend County School before matriculating to the University College Cardiff.
A talented sportsman, in 1937 he won the Welsh AAA junior 220 yards title. A year later, after spending three seasons in the Welsh Secondary Schools rugby team, he played in a senior Wales trail, at just 18. In 1939 he came second in the Senior Men's AAA 100 yards and third in the 220 yards.
A part of the boxing team of the Welsh National School of Medicine at Cardiff University, he famously fought the legendary Rocky Marciano in an amateur bout at RAF St Athan air base in the Vale of Glamorgan in 1943. Only five professional challengers took Marciano the distance, who won all 49 of his fights, but a 23-year-old Matthews did too with no winner declared following their four-round contest.
Matthews continued his connection with sport after retiring from playing rugby. He maintained links with boxing, becoming the medical officer to the Welsh Boxing Association.
Denis Gethin, president of the WRU, said that Matthews was one of the greatest names in the history of Welsh rugby. "He will go down in Welsh rugby history as one of the greatest ever," he said. "He was renowned for his devastating tackling, not just in Wales but around the world.His partnership with Bleddyn Williams was the stuff of legend."
Cardiff Blues Chairman Peter Thomas said: "Jack Matthews was undoubtedly one of the greatest centres Wales has ever produced and formed a formidable centre partnership with his great friend Bleddyn Williams.
"He was a strong runner, a devastating tackler and showed his class not only for Cardiff but also for Wales and the Lions. He was an outstanding player in the '40s and '50s for Cardiff before being appointed Chairman of the club. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time."
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