Maldwyn James

Wales and Cardiff rugby player
Click to follow
The Independent Online

David Maldwyn James, rugby player and mining engineer: born Cilfynydd, Glamorgan 28 June 1913; married (one daughter); died Aberdare, Rhondda Cynon Taff 19 July 2003.

In 1947 Maldwyn James became one of the oldest rugby players to have made a début for Wales, when he was 34 years and five months old. Although neither having been born, nor lived, in Cardiff, it was there that he played his rugby, on the Arms Park ground, for the famous Blue and Blacks.

Playing for his country was a great honour, but it was the Cardiff match against the Kiwis, alias the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Forces, on Boxing Day 1945, that would forever live in his memory. Almost all the tourists, who had just seen action from North Africa to Europe in the Second World War, were soon to be capped. They were a brilliant, exciting team, who arrived at the match with an unbeaten record, just as the home side did.

A German landmine had restricted access to fans on the west terrace, but those present saw a thrilling encounter of rugby football at its best. The Kiwis led by a try (then three points) to nil when, nearing the final whistle, Cardiff gained a penalty close to the posts.

The skipper, Jack Matthews, himself an international and later a Lion, recalled: "Though a hooker, Maldwyn was our kicker that season and I gave him the shot, but unfortunately he missed badly. We were never worried by it, but he was most upset, as our record had gone."

However, two years later, he hooked in one of the greatest-ever Cardiff sides that defeated Australia by 11-3, thus earning selection for his Test début against Wallabies.

He went on to play against England, Scotland, Ireland and France in 1948. The Ireland and Lions hooker and captain Karl Mullen was often heard to shout: "Keep your hands down, James." The wily Welshman was stooping to win scrummages with his hands rather than his feet on occasions.

James played first in his home village at Cilfynydd, Glamorgan, while attending Pontypridd Grammar School and in 1937-38 he was selected for a Wales trial, but a serious injury to his right foot kept him out of the game from 1939 to 1941.

He played for Wales in four Victory internationals and in 1945-46 joined Cardiff, contributing 145 points during the season. An engineer, then manager, at the Albion Colliery in Cilfynydd, he was a president and then life member of his beloved Cilfynydd RFC and was the oldest living former player, who was to be invited to the club's centenary season this September. He also served on the Cardiff committee, eventually as chairman.

Howard Evans