Gerry Lewis: Wales rugby physio

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The Independent Online

When the great Welsh rugby player Gareth Edwards became the first player in the history of the game to play 50 consecutive international matches, he struck a special clock to mark the occasion. Not for himself, but to present to the Wales team physiotherapist, Gerry Lewis. The inscription said it all: "Gerry – thanks for making so many of the 50 possible". That was how Welsh rugby's glittering array of star names of the Seventies felt about the mild-mannered man from Newport with the magic hands.

Lewis followed his father, Ray, into the physiotherapy business and as the Welsh Rugby Union's honorary physio. Having started work at the family practice in Newport, in 1957, he moved on to the White House in Bassaleg Road six years later and finally to Caerleon Road.

From 1961 to 1982, he was the unpaid physio and masseur to the Wales rugby team. While Gareth Thomas became the first Welsh player to play 100 times for his country at last year's Rugby World Cup, Lewis had eclipsed that mark 25 years earlier. He became the first physio to travel overseas with Wales, and was credited by many captains, coaches and players as being "the 16th member of the team".

"Gerry was excellent at his job and he often worked harder before a game in preparing the players for action than we did on the field over the following 80 minutes. He did more than anyone to get the likes of Gareth Edwards and Gerald Davies on to the field in shape to play than anyone else," the 1978 Wales Grand Slam skipper Mervyn Davies said. "Gerry used to be bursting with pride every time he handed you your jersey. It became one of the rituals in the dressing room that we all loved."

Lewis had many roles – masseur, physio, baggage master and buyer of the ice-creams at the cinema on the Friday night before an international.

Rob Cole

Gerry Lewis, physiotherapist: born Risca, Monmouthshire 22 August 1931; married 1955 Valerie Knight (one daughter); died Chepstow, Monmouthshire 15 February 2008.