Clem Thomas

Richard Clement Charles "Clem" Thomas (28 January 1929 – 5 September 1996)[1] was a Wales international rugby union player. A flanker, he represented Cambridge University R.U.F.C. in the Varsity Match in 1949 and played for Brynamman, Swansea, London Welsh and Harlequins. He earned 26 caps for Wales, between 1949 and 1959 and captained Wales in his last nine internationals.[1] After retiring as a player he became a rugby union journalist and author of books on the game.

Clem Thomas
Birth nameRichard Charles Clement Thomas
Date of birth(1929-01-28)28 January 1929
Place of birthCardiff, Wales
Date of death5 September 1996(1996-09-05) (aged 67)
Place of deathSwansea, Wales
SchoolBlundell's School
UniversityCambridge University
Rugby union career
Position(s) Flanker
Senior career
Years Team Apps (Points)
  Cambridge University
London Welsh
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
British Lions

Rugby careerEdit

Thomas first came to note as a rugby player while still a school-boy. A boarder at Blundell's School in Tiverton he gained four Wales School-boy caps while at the school. He gained his first full senior cap in the match against France in the 1949 Five Nations Championship.[2]

Thomas was also a member of the last Wales team that defeated the New Zealand All Blacks in 1953. In fact, it was Thomas's cross field kick that enabled Ken Jones, the flying Welsh winger, to gather the ball and touch down for the winning try.[2]

Thomas toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 1955. He was taken ill shortly after the start of the tour and was operated on for appendicitis, which caused him to miss the first ten tour matches. He spent part of his recuperation on a farm owned by the South African pilot Sailor Malan and rejoined the tour in time to be selected for the final two test matches against South Africa. Tony O'Reilly, writing after Thomas's death, felt that if Thomas had been available for all four games the Lions might have won the series rather than drawing it 2–2.[3] Thomas captained the Lions team in the game against Natal.[4]

Personal historyEdit

Clem Thomas was born in Cardiff and educated at Blundell's School[2] and St. John's College, Cambridge.[4] He was married twice, to Ann Barter in 1954 and Joyce Rowley in 1980 and had three sons and one daughter with his first wife.[2] One of his sons, Greg Thomas, was the Head of Media on the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.[5] Clem Thomas was a butcher by trade but when he retired from playing rugby he took up journalism and worked for The Observer for 35 years and then The Independent on Sunday for the last two years of his life.[2] He co-authored the book Welsh Rugby with Geoff Nicholson and wrote The History of the British and Irish Lions which he completed shortly before his death.

Thomas also took part in politics. He stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Liberal Party in two general elections for the UK parliament and one election for the European Parliament in the 1970s.[2]

He died in Swansea in 1996 aged 67.


  1. ^ a b Clem Thomas player profile ESPN
  2. ^ a b c d e f Obituary of Clem Thomas, The Independent, 6 September 1996
  3. ^ Obituary:Clem Thomas Tony O'Reilly The Independent 11 September 1996
  4. ^ a b Thomas, Clem; Thomas, Greg (2005). The History of the British and Lions. London: Mainstream. ISBN 1-84596-030-0.
  5. ^ "The 2009 British and Irish Lions management team". Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
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