Tributes to former Swansea forward Billy 'Stoker' Williams
TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the great figures of Welsh rugby, Billy 'Stoker' Williams, who has died at the age of 83.
The versatile Swansea forward won 22 caps from 1951-56, scoring two tries, and was known as one of the strongmen of the game.
He gained his nickname from his time serving in the Royal Navy and toured with the British and Irish Lions to South Africa in 1955, playing in 16 games, including four tests and leading the pack which dominated the Springboks in the third one.
He was known for his upper body strength, helped by the physical nature of his job as a boiler maker.
He captained Swansea for two seasons from 1955 to 56 and played in the side which drew 6-6 with the All Blacks in 1953 and also in the Swansea teams that played South Africa in 1951 and 1960, and Australia in 1958.
He started off as a second row for Swansea but was capped as a prop at 22.
"A great loose head prop, he was speedy in open play and powerful in the tight scrums and mauls, as well as employing his height as a surprisingly useful lineout jumper," said Swansea secretary Byron Mugford.
"He played 305 games for Swansea, only really converting from second row to prop fully in the 1953-54 season, where he then gained a fearsome reputation for his strength and technique in that role."
Billy Williams began his career at Gowerton and played for the Royal Navy and Combined Services, and made three appearances for the Barbarians.
"Away from the competitiveness of the rugby field, Billy was a quiet and kind gentleman," said Mr Mugford.
"He retired in 1962. Such was his reputation among forwards of his day that, even in 2009, he was chosen as loose head in the Ospreylia Dream Team alongside Swansea's Garin Jenkins and Neath's Courtney Meredith, an indication of his standing in the game so many years after his retirement."
On Saturday Swansea's match against Llanelli in St Helen's was preceded by a silent tribute to one of their greats.
"Swansea Rugby Cub is very saddened by the news that WOG 'Stoker' Williams passed away aged 83 after a long illness," said Mr Mugford.
"His loss will be felt throughout the rugby world and especially by the Swansea club that he graced with his play from 1949 to 1962."
He often played alongside hooker and tough ex-miner DM Davies, who always referred to him as "hard boy".