Fearless Welsh rugby international
Wednesday 12 October 2005
Jeff Young was one of those rugby players who feared nothing and always tried to cause the maximum amount of mayhem on the field. His playing career included 23 Welsh caps, a tour with the British and Irish Lions and a key role in what is often described as the greatest Welsh team of all time, the 1971 Grand Slam side.
His indomitable spirit made him one of the most admired players in the Welsh pack, but often landed him in trouble, most notably in New Zealand in 1969. Travelling with the Five Nations champions and Triple Crown holders to New Zealand, Young had his jaw broken at a line-out in the first Test against the All Blacks in Christchurch by a punch from Colin Meads as an act of retaliation for alleged jersey-pulling.
Young missed the next two Tests on that tour, and the unofficial game in Fiji, but was restored for the 1970 Five Nations campaign. While many of his contemporaries ribbed him about his uncle Jack Young's being a member of the Welsh selection panel, the "Big Five", the fact is that Young was never dropped at international level between his début, against Scotland in 1968, and his last game for Wales against France in 1973.
One Grand Slam, two Triple Crowns, two outright Five Nations championship wins and two tied championships came his way with Wales and there could have been another Grand Slam in 1972 had the Welsh team travelled to Ireland in a season when they beat the other three countries hands down. Young also played nine times on the Lions tour to South Africa in 1968, including the first Test.
Born in Blaengarw, Glamorgan, Young played for the Wales Schools Under 19 team for three successive seasons, 1959-61. He launched his senior playing career at Bridgend, helping them to win the Unofficial Welsh Championship in 1965, before joining Harrogate. He also played for London Welsh and the RAF. He was a teacher in Yorkshire for seven years, and spent 20 in the RAF, rising to wing commander, before being headhunted in 1991 by the Welsh Rugby Union as their first technical director. He coached the RAF and the British Combined Services on their joint tour with British Police in New Zealand in 1988, and also acted as team manager at Bridgend.
In his role at the WRU, he earned a reputation for being a modern thinker on the game as it moved rapidly towards professionalism.
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