John Gwilliam: Wales Grand Slam-winning captain dies at 93

John Gwilliam
John Gwilliam, in action for Newport in January 1949, was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2005

Former Wales Grand Slam-winning captain John Gwilliam - who was part of the last Welsh team to beat New Zealand - has died at the age of 93.

Gwilliam was captain of Wales when they won Five Nations Championship Grand Slams in 1950 and 1952.

He was also in the team that beat the All Blacks 13-8 in Cardiff in 1953.

Away from rugby, he served as a tank commander during the Second World War and was headmaster of the independent Birkenhead School from 1963 to 1988.

Born in Pontypridd, number eight Gwilliam played 23 times for Wales between 1947 and 1954, and captained the team in 11 of those games.

When he led Wales in the 21-0 win over France in Cardiff in 1950, it ended a 39-year wait for a Grand Slam after the first "Golden Era" had yielded three in four seasons between 1908 and 1911.

The Wales team that won the Grand Slam in 1950
The Wales team that beat France 21-0 to win the Grand Slam in 1950

They did not have long to wait for the next, with Gwilliam captaining the team to a clean sweep in 1952, with France beaten 9-6 at St Helen's in Swansea in the final game.

By 19 December 1953, Gwilliam had relinquished the captaincy to Bleddyn Williams, but was a still a key player as Wales beat the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park.

Wales have failed to beat New Zealand since.

Gwilliam was educated at Monmouth School and Trinity College, Cambridge.

He played for the Light Blues and went on to appear for Newport, Llanelli, London Welsh, Wasps, Edinburgh Wanderers and Gloucester.

He was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment in 1942 and saw action in Europe during the Second World War before returning to university to complete his studies.

Gwilliam was described as a physically imposing, religious and austere, and he is remembered at Birkenhead School as a strict disciplinarian.

He was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, and was a distant relative of ex-Wales football international midfielder Jack Collison.

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