Brian Williams

Powerful Neath and Wales prop


Brian Richard Williams, rugby player: born Penffordd, Pembrokeshire 9 July 1962; married (two daughters); died Llangolman, Pembrokeshire 7 February 2007.

When Wales take the field against Scotland in the second round of the Six Nations at Murrayfield today, their loose-head prop Duncan Jones will be following in the footsteps of his boyhood idol. In 1990, Brian Williams, from the same Neath club that helped to launch Jones's career, made his international début against the Scots. Williams went on to win five caps in the Welsh front row and became a leading figure in the game in Wales.

"Brian was one of the first props in what you'd call the new mould," Jones said.

He was always around the field, coming out of the mauls with ball in hand and charging up field.

He was certainly someone I looked up to in my younger playing days and I have some great early memories of him playing at the Gnoll.

I was fortunate to have actually played with him. He's still a legend with the fans in Neath and is the first name that springs to mind when anyone talks about the Neath front row.

Born in Penffordd, near Maenclochog, Williams learned his rugby at Ysgol Preseli and then Narberth rugby club. He represented Pembrokeshire before joining Neath in 1983. A farmer by trade, he formed an all-farming front row with his near neighbours Kevin Phillips and John Davies at Neath. He made more than 250 appearances for the Welsh All Blacks between 1983 and 1995, playing for the club against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in that time.

Built more like a back-row forward than a prop, he weighed 14st 2lb and was 6ft 1in tall. But within that wiry frame was one of the most powerful rugby players in the world. He helped Neath to win the WRU Challenge Cup twice, the inaugural Heineken League title and two Western Mail championships.

He was also at the heart of the side that set a new world tries (385) and points (1,917) records for a season in 1988/89. His club performances demanded he be taken seriously by the international selectors, although it took the appointment of the Neath coach Ron Waldron to the Wales post before he got the call-up. "Brian suffered in the minds of some people because of his weight and size," the former England prop Jeff Probyn said.

But I can tell you from first-hand experience that he was a very, very good prop. He was very fit, very strong and very hard - and an excellent technician. I can still remember packing down against him in Cardiff in 1991 in an England side that was expected to push Wales all over the field. We failed to do so, even at a scrum on the Welsh line.

Williams's five appearances for Wales all ended in defeat. His début was against Scotland in Cardiff in 1990 and his final appearance came against England in 1991. Gareth Llewellyn, who played for club and country with Williams, rated him the most powerful man he has ever played rugby with.

Pound for pound he was the strongest man in the game. He brought mental toughness and hardness to Neath and gave us all the lead in those areas. The Neath team of the late Eighties and early Nineties was one of the best sides I have ever played in and it was down to players like Brian.

An accident on his farm, when a nine-inch angle grinder almost severed his left wrist, should have brought Williams's rugby career to a premature end. But he became more determined than ever and returned as fit as ever to the Neath front row. "No other man could have come back to play after an injury like that," Kevin Phillips, his Neath and Wales colleague, said.

He was told he would never play again, but that made him all the more determined to do so. I've never met another man like him.

Rob Cole

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life