Ray Gravell (former Wales and Lions) RIP


Just heard it on the Beeb. The ultimate crash ball centre.
A great man.


Telegraph Obit:

Ray Gravell, who died on Wednesday aged 56, was one of the most admired figures in the world of Welsh rugby; he was capped 23 times for his country and played in all four Tests during the 1980 British Lions tour of South Africa.

Gravell's playing record, however, told only half the story and spoke little of his dedication, commitment, humour and skills. After retiring from the sport he forged a successful second career as a bilingual actor and broadcaster for the BBC.

He was fiercely patriotic, and when he first turned out for Wales, in 1975, tears streamed down his face as he took the field. His passion for the game was accompanied by an impeccable sense of sportsmanship; in the tunnel he would make a point of greeting both friend and foe with a handshake and a hug.

He brought the same commitment to his work as a BBC and S4C commentator, during which he would enjoy exchanging banter with the players he was interviewing.

During a lengthy career, the bearded Gravell became Wales's senior player, but it was the remarkable match between his club, Llanelli, and the touring All Blacks in October 1972 that remained one of his most memorable.

Llanelli beat the New Zealanders 9-3 at Stradey Park, and Peter West recalled in The Daily Telegraph: "That encounter, and the supercharged atmosphere in which it was contested, will be etched forever in the memories of all concerned."

Raymond William Robert Gravell was born on September 12 1951 at Mynydd-y-Garreg, near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, and educated at Burry Port secondary modern and Carmarthen grammar schools.

He made his name in rugby as a hard-running centre for Llanelli, the club he joined in 1970 and which he captained for two seasons in the early 1980s. Known throughout the game as "Grav", he was first capped for Wales in 1975 when they won 25-10 against France in Paris, a match that Gravell himself considered the stuff of fairy tales.

Gravell became a key member of the Welsh sides of the late 1970s and early 1980s which dominated the Five Nations championship, winning two Grand Slams, four titles and four Triple Crowns. Although a shoulder injury kept him out of the 1977 Lions tour of New Zealand, he did make the tour to South Africa three years later.

He played his last club match for Llanelli in 1985, the year he joined the BBC.

Making his debut as an actor, Gravell starred in Bonner, a BBC Wales film for the Welsh language channel S4C. An assortment of roles followed, and Gravell's appearance in the film Filipina Dreamgirls (1991) led to his being cast as Jeremy Irons's chauffeur in Louis Malle's Damage (1992).

He was cast in a film adaptation of Dylan Thomas's book Rebecca's Daughters (1992), starring Peter O'Toole, and in 1996 appeared with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Tony Curtis in Valley Girls.

During the 1990s Gravell was a regular presenter for both BBC Radio Wales and the Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru.

He became a member of the BBC's Welsh language rugby commentary team, and worked as an interviewer during Celtic League, Powergen and Heineken Cup games.

Gravell also hosted a breakfast show on Radio Cymru in south-west Wales, co-presented I'll Show You Mine on Radio Wales, and on television fronted two series of Tip Top, a popular amateur talent competition series produced by BBC Wales for S4C.

He was particularly proud of his membership of the Gorsedd of Bards, and was keeper of the ceremonial sword at the National Eisteddfod until earlier this year, when illness forced him to relinquish the post.

He was widely regarded as a fine ambassador, not only for the game of rugby but also for Wales, its language, history and culture.

In later life Gravell was plagued by ill-health, and in 2000 was diagnosed with diabetes, which resulted in the loss of two of his toes. Last April he was readmitted to hospital to have his right leg amputated below the knee.

His fellow countryman Gareth Edwards regarded Gravell as the most passionate player he had ever seen; while the prop forward Barry Llewellyn once recalled: "Half an hour before the kick-off at an international in Cardiff 'Grav' was sitting on the loo singing Welsh songs at the top of his voice."

It was typical of Gravell's indomitable style that he had Llanelli's livery proudly emblazoned on his artifical leg.

Ray Gravell is survived by his wife, Mari, and their two young daughters.

Leicester and Cardiff gave him a 'silence' before the game on Saturday. Unusual I believe, as he was never associated with either of those great clubs. A well respected and liked man.

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