John Dawes
Birth nameSydney John Dawes
Date of birth(1940-06-29)29 June 1940
Place of birthAbercarn, Monmouthshire, Wales
Date of death16 April 2021 (aged 80)
SchoolLewis School Pengam
UniversityUniversity College of Wales, Aberystwyth
Loughborough College
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
Newbridge RFC
London Welsh RFC
Barbarian F.C.
International career
Years Team Apps (Points)
British Lions[1]

Sydney John Dawes OBE (29 June 1940 – 16 April 2021)[2] was a Welsh rugby union player, playing at centre, and later coach. He captained London Welsh, Wales, the 1971 British Lions and the Barbarians. He is credited with being a major influence in these teams' success, and in the attractive, attacking, free-flowing rugby they played. Dawes also had considerable success as a coach with Wales, and coached the 1977 British Lions. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1972 New Year Honours List for services as Lions captain.[3]

Early life and education

Dawes was born in Chapel of Ease, part of Abercarn, near Newbridge, on 29 June 1940.[1] His father was a colliery blacksmith.[4] He was educated at Lewis School Pengam, and later at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth where he earned a degree in chemistry.[5]

He later achieved a PGCE at Loughborough College whilst continuing to play rugby for Newbridge.[4] [6][7]

By 1964 he had moved to London in support of his wife's ambitions as an opera singer. He worked as a chemistry teacher in Hounslow.[4]

Rugby playing career


Dawes played club rugby for Newbridge in Monmouthshire.

He then joined London Welsh. Dawes was appointed captain, and effectively also as coach, for the 1965–66 season, leading the club in a period of great success in the late 1960s. He initially significantly increased fitness levels, and then led the club in an open, running, quick-passing, attacking style of rugby, including an overlapping full-back, and relatively skilled forwards. One 1968–69 performance was described by journalist John Reason[8][9] as "one of the most brilliant exhibitions of club football it has been my privilege to see", and by journalist Terry O'Connor[10] as "the finest display by a club team I can remember", further describing London Welsh "switching attacks with speed and handling skill".[11][12]


Dawes won his first cap for Wales against Ireland in 1964, and scored an interpassing try at pace.[1] He was selected for Wales' first overseas tour later the same year and played in the Welsh rugby team's first match outside of Europe and its first in the Southern Hemisphere. He played against East Africa in Nairobi on 12 May 1964, Wales winning 26–8.[13] He went on to make 22 appearances for Wales,[1] captaining the side in six of them, including leading the Grand Slam winning side of 1971.[14]

British Lions and Barbarians

In 1971, Dawes was appointed captain of the British and Irish Lions side for the tour to New Zealand. This side, coached by Carwyn James, became the first and so far the only Lions team to win a series in New Zealand.[5] Colin Meads, New Zealand’s captain, said that Dawes could not be omitted from any contemporary world XV because of his influence on the overall team.[4]

Dawes is one of six captains to lead his side to a test series win on New Zealand soil, along with Philip J. Nel (1937 Springboks), Trevor Allan (1949 Australia), Andrew Slack (1986 Australia), Philippe Saint-André (1994 France) and Johnny Sexton (2022 Ireland).[15] He was honoured as the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year at the end of that year.[5]

Dawes was also captain of the Barbarians side that beat New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973.[5][16]

Rugby coaching career

Dawes acted as a coach, as well as captain, at London Welsh during the late 1960s and early 1970s.[5]

After retiring as a player, Dawes became coach of the Welsh national side in 1974, a post he held until 1979. This was one of the most successful periods in the history of Welsh rugby, with the team winning the Five Nations Championship four times in the five seasons between 1975 and 1979, including two Grand Slams.[5][17]

Dawes also coached the 1977 British Lions tour to New Zealand, but was unable to repeat the success of 1971.[18] Ian McGeechan has said of this tour "perhaps John, a natural player and leader in his time, was just not so good at putting things across," but others have pointed out that the 1977 Lions nearly drew the series, and that subsequent Lions tours to New Zealand fared much worse.[11]

Subsequent work and roles

In 1972 Dawes moved from teaching to a management post with the North London Polytechnic and then to a property development company. From 1980 to 1990 he worked in the paid role of coaching organiser for the WRU.[18]

Dawes was president of London Welsh RFC and wrote several books on rugby union.[19]

Personal life

Dawes met his wife Janette at university.[18] They had two children and five grandchildren. Both his son Michael and grandson Rhodri played for London Welsh.[20] The marriage ended in the 1980s.[21]

Dawes lived in Llandaff, Cardiff with his partner, Jill Mathias, for nearly 30 years.[22][7][16] He enjoyed walking holidays and socialising with old friends.[4]

Dawes died on 16 April 2021[17] at age 80, of pneumonia. He had been ill for some time, and in hospital since the previous September.[7][16]


  1. ^ a b c d e "John Dawes – Rugby Union: Players and Officials". ESPN Scrum. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  2. ^ John Dawes rugby profile ESPN
  3. ^ United Kingdom list: "No. 45554". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1971. p. 10.
  4. ^ a b c d e "John Dawes obituary". 16 January 2024 – via
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary: Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby legend John Dawes". BBC News. 16 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  6. ^ Andrew Baldock (16 April 2021). "John Dawes obituary: The only man to captain the British & Irish Lions to a Test series triumph against New Zealand". The Scotsman. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b c Thomas, Simon (16 April 2021). "Wales rugby legend John Dawes dies aged 80". Wales Online.
  8. ^ "Obituary: John Reason". NZ Herald.
  9. ^ "About Rugby: Special tribute to John Reason".
  10. ^ "Talking Rugby Union: Game enriched by competitive line-out".
  11. ^ a b The Man Who Changed the World of Rugby – John Dawes and the Legendary 1971 British Lions, Ross Reyburn
  12. ^ "John Dawes". Rugby Journal.
  13. ^ "The first Lions highlights ... with a delay". ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. 1 January 2000. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  14. ^ "John Dawes, captain for Lions' series win in NZ, dies at 80". Associated Press. 16 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  15. ^ "John Dawes, légende du rugby gallois, est mort". L'Équipe. 16 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  16. ^ a b c "John Dawes, Wales and British & Irish Lions legend, dies aged 80". The Guardian. London. 16 April 2021. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  17. ^ a b Richardson, Charles; Schofield, Daniel; Cary, Tom (16 April 2021). "John Dawes, former Lions and Wales captain, dies at the age of 80". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 17 April 2021. (subscription required)
  18. ^ a b c "John Dawes obituary" – via
  19. ^ Shankland, Jonathan (16 April 2021). "John Dawes 1940–2021". London Welsh. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  20. ^ Thomas, Simon (29 June 2020). "John Dawes at 80, the Welsh legend who's lived a rugby life like no other". WalesOnline.
  21. ^ Williams, Richard (11 May 2021). "John Dawes obituary" – via The Guardian.
  22. ^ Jones, Stephen. "Dawes was the founding father of rugby's spectacular decade" – via