'I meant every word of that famous speech - it was off the cuff and from the heart'
EVERY day for the past 40 years Delme Thomas has heard the same statement, sometimes uttered to him by people he has never even met before.
He never tires of it because the three little words send instant impulses to his memory bank and evoke recollections of the greatest occasion of his rugby career.
"Every day since Llanelli beat the All Blacks in 1972 someone has come up to me and said: 'I was there'," says Thomas.
"I don't always know the people involved, but it is great to hear their memories and listen to them saying how much the result meant to them.
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"It was a special, special day that will live forever in the memory."
Thomas's role in the 9-3 triumph on Halloween 40 years ago confirmed him as an authentic Llanelli RFC legend.
With muscles like Popeye and sideburns that Bradley Wiggins might have taken inspiration from, he cut an unmistakable and iconic figure at the heart of the Scarlets' pack, short-sleeved jersey to the fore.
You could imagine him facing the spears of the locals at Rorke's Drift.
And more than the odd Zulu debating whether 4,000 men really were enough to conquer the tiny garrison below.
Thomas's deeds on the pitch against Ian Kirkpatrick's All Blacks confirmed him as a warrior who would never take a backward step.
Yet his contribution before the game had even started was to prove just as important.
His pre-match speech has gone down in rugby legend. It was a call-to-arms that moved players almost to tears in the home dressing room.
Thomas told his charges they were playing for their mothers and fathers, their wives and children and their girlfriends. For their friends. For the town and for the club.
He stressed how much the match meant to him. He would give up everything he had achieved in rugby to secure victory for Llanelli over New Zealand.
For a man who had toured with the Lions three times and played in Wales's Grand Slam side a year earlier, it was powerful, stirring stuff.
Gareth Jenkins has since described how he was bursting with emotion on hearing Thomas's words, while Ray Gravell would recall being both frightened and inspired.
But this was no meticulously prepared oration.
No midnight oil had been burned in the Thomas house the night before. There had been no agonising over the words for the most important speech of his life.
He had actually planned nothing, believing Carwyn James would provide the oratory to fuel the Llanelli effort.
"It was off the cuff," he says.
"It came from the heart, every word of it. Playing for Llanelli meant the world to me and here we were, about to do battle with New Zealand, the greatest rugby team in the world.
"I had been part of the Lions squad that defeated the All Blacks a year earlier and I had been on three Lions tours, but I wanted to win desperately that day, so I told the boys I would swap it all for Llanelli to beat New Zealand.
"I meant every word because beating the All Blacks with my club did mean more to me than anything I had done in the game. The message seemed to hit home."
The bare stats of Llanelli's triumph show Thomas's side getting home courtesy of a Roy Bergiers try, converted by Phil Bennett, and an Andy Hill penalty, against a lone penalty shot for the Kiwis.
But those details can never do justice to the full extent of the home team's effort. Instead, those who were there recall a bashed-up Gareth Jenkins refusing to be cowed despite being singled out for brutal treatment; Tony Crocker refusing to yield in the scrums against the monster that was Keith Murdoch; every player putting his body on the line.
Then there was Phil Bennett. While all around him was blood and thunder, the Llanelli fly-half managed to keep his composure, showing the class that set him apart as a player. His club needed him to be at his best, and he was, orchestrating the win with a marvellous tactical display.
There was also a dot of the flamboyance for which Bennett was renowned.
"Perhaps my most clear memory of the game came towards the end when we were doing everything we could to hold onto our lead," says Thomas.
"The All Blacks kicked long, Phil fielded the ball and Grant Batty came flying at him. A lesser player might have panicked, rushed his clearance and run the risk of a charge-down, but Phil just stepped out of the way before calmly getting the ball away.
"It was a magical moment and I knew then we were going to do it.
"And it was typical of Phil, a player who was the nearest thing I saw to poetry in motion.
"I played all over the world, with and against great players, but Benny was the greatest. People remember him for his running, but there was so much more to his game.
"He had this ability to find an opponent's weaknesses and play on them. So the first kick of a game would usually be a spiralling one to the full-back, to see how he was under a high ball.
"Barry John was a wonderful player, someone who could glide through defences, but if I had to choose between them I would go for Benny. It was a joy to play alongside him."
Thomas continues: "The boys I still feel sorry for are the ones who missed out on selection that day, people like Alan James and Selwyn Williams, great club men who didn't get to play on such an important day. Were the game played today, they'd have got on with quarter-of-an-hour to go, perhaps, but it didn't work that way 40 years ago."
It was a different world.
As a rule, amateur players played hard and socialised hard.
But they had jobs outside rugby as well. "I was in work at half-past seven the next morning," recalls Thomas. "I was at the club until 3am but I'm a tea-totaller, so I was okay to go in the next day."
And to think Max Boyce later wrote that all in Llanelli had doctors' papers. "Everything about the day was memorable," said Thomas.
"Carwyn plotted it and pulled it off. He was a genius who was 30 years ahead of his time."