Rugby's great and good turn out in force to honour legend Mervyn Davies
A WHO'S who of world rugby has turned out to honour the memory of one of Swansea's finest sporting sons, Mervyn Davies.
The likes of legendary British Lions skipper Willie-John McBride, former All Black wing Bryan Williams and Scottish RFC president Ian McLauchlan rubbed shoulders with homegrown internationals such Gareth Edwards, JJ Williams, Derek Quinnell and Robert Jones in an emotional service within a good touch kick of his beloved St Helen's ground, which he graced with such style during his Whites career, the Brangwyn Hall.
Known affectionately as Merv the Swerve, he died in March aged 65 following a battle with cancer.
The former London Welsh and Swansea player won 38 caps for his country and played eight tests for the British Lions in 1971 and 1974. He was handed the Welsh captaincy in 1975 and led his team to the Grand Slam in 1976.
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The packed service at the Brangwyn Hall yesterday was led by Davies's former Wales and Lions teammate John Taylor who introduced a string of rugby greats all keen to pay tribute to a "true great".
JPR Williams said: "His funeral was very small, for family and close friends. Today was a chance for everyone else to pay their respects. He was a great player and, more importantly than the rugby, a close friend of mine."
Gareth Edwards said: "He was fantastic to play with, such a great player, respected throughout the world.
"I still can't believe that I won't see him at the bar after the autumn internationals."
JJ Williams said: "The world has lost a great man, arguably the greatest number 8 the world has ever seen. When we talk about icons this man was one, a lovely, lovely man."
And his former captain, John Dawes, who pointed out that Davies played 38 consecutive times for Wales missing only 5 minutes through injury, and was never dropped, only losing 8 times, said: "He was so well known and so popular.
"When you see the internationals that are here to honour Mervyn today, you realise that he was indeed special."
Irishman Willie John McBride, who led Davies on two winning Lions tours to New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa in 1974, said: "I'm proud to say that I played with Mervyn Davies and it was great to know him.
"He was one of the greatest No. 8s and one of the greatest players I ever played with.
"He was a fantastic tourist, his sincerity, his loyalty, he just had all the qualities you need when 30 men come together to tour."
Bryan Williams, a member of the New Zealand side beaten by a Davies-inspired LIons in 1971, said: "He was a wonderful player, one of the greats of our times." Llanelli legend Derek Quinnell paid tribute to the player he faced many times in Scarlets-Jack derbies, said: "He was very difficult to play against, he would win all the line-outs and lose ball and would be at the bottom of every ruck killing the ball, but he was fantastic to play alongside."
Former Wales coach Clive Rowlands, who was also part of the Cor y Gyrlais choir that performed several hymns and songs, including Bread of Heaven and Sloop John B, said: "I don't know what it was, there was something special about the bloke."
And before introducing Swansea Town, Mr Rowlands said: "Mervyn's father captained Swansea in 1946 and years later Mervyn was to do the same."
Ian McLauchlan, who splayed alongside Davies with the Lions, said: "If you were to pick a world team from the players who played in my time the first name on the team sheet would have been Mervyn's."
Wales, Whites and Lions star Robert Jones puts down meeting Davies when he was a kid as the reason he wanted to play for Wales himself.
He said: "I was only 5-years-old when Merv became a household name across the rugby-playing world through helping to destroy the fearsome All Blacks, on the victorious British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 1971, but he was one of my absolute sporting heroes."