Wales and Lions great Barry John dies aged 79

Wales rugby great Barry John has died at the age of 79.

The former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half died peacefully in hospital, his family announced.

John, who was nicknamed The King by New Zealand journalists after he inspired the Lions’ famous 1971 Test series victory over the All Blacks, won 25 Wales caps between 1966 and 1972.

He also played in five Lions Tests on their 1968 and 1971 tours, before retiring from rugby at the age of 27.

Barry John/ Wales
John won 25 Wales caps between 1966 and 1972 (PA)

A statement released by John’s family read: “Barry John died peacefully today at the University Hospital of Wales surrounded by his loving wife and four children.

“He was a loving dad to his 11 grandchildren and a much-loved brother.”

John played his club rugby for Llanelli and then Cardiff, where he struck up a half-back partnership with Gareth Edwards that went on to flourish for Wales and the Lions.

John was partnered by Edwards in 23 of his Wales international appearances, plus all five Lions Tests – one against South Africa and four against New Zealand.

Another star of Welsh rugby’s golden era, full-back JPR Williams, died four weeks ago.

Jonathan Davies, one of the most renowned Welsh players of the 1980s and 1990s, paid tribute to John, writing on X: “RIP Barry – another one of my heroes sadly gone. #BarryJohnTheKing”

John will be particularly remembered for his performances on the two Lions Tours, in which he scored 30 of the Lions’ 48 points across four Tests.

Calling him “truly one of the greatest”, the Lions added in a statement: “We are hugely saddened that the great Barry John has passed away at the age of 79.

“Barry inspired so many and will forever be remembered for how much he gave to the sport.

“All our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Scarlets, with whom John started his first-class career in 1964, described John as “an icon of the game”, while former Lions tourist John Devereux tweeted: “My greatest idol of all time has gone”.