Jack Matthews (rugby union)

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Jack Matthews OBE (21 June 1920 – 18 July 2012) was a Welsh physician and rugby union international centre[1] who played first-class club rugby for Cardiff and Newport. Along with Bleddyn Williams, Matthews formed a centre partnership which is regarded as one of the finest in the game. He was also a devastating tackler, once described as "a cross between a bulldozer and a brick wall".[2] Matthews won 17 caps for Wales and six with the British Lions, though his career was curtailed by the Second World War. Matthews was a general practitioner by profession and travelled with the 1980 Lions on their tour of South Africa as the team doctor.

Jack Matthews
Jack Matthews rugby 1950.jpg
Matthews in New Zealand in 1950
Date of birth(1920-06-21)21 June 1920
Place of birthBridgend, Wales
Date of death18 July 2012(2012-07-18) (aged 92)
Height1.61 m (5 ft 3 in)
Weight93 kg (205 lb)
SchoolBridgend County School
UniversityWelsh National School of Medicine
Occupation(s)General practitioner
Rugby union career
Position(s) Centre
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)

Bridgend RFC
Cardiff Medicals RFC
Cardiff RFC
Newport RFC
Barbarian F.C.
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
British Lions

Early historyEdit

Born in Bridgend, South Wales in 1920, Matthews attended Bridgend County School before matriculating to the Welsh National School of Medicine. From a youth he was a keen sportsperson, and in 1937 he won the Welsh AAA junior 220 yards title.[3] A year later, after spending three seasons in the Welsh Secondary Schools rugby team, he played in a senior Wales trail, at just eighteen years old. In 1939 he came second in the Senior Men's AAA 100 yards and third in the 220 yards.[3]

Second World WarEdit

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Matthews applied to join the Royal Air Force, but was required to train as a doctor at the Welsh School of Medicine.[3] Matthews was later commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps.[4] Bleddyn Williams, an RAF trainee and later Matthew's centre partner for Wales, played with Matthews for the first time whilst stationed in South Wales. The duo were part of a South Wales team that faced an Ack Ack XV in 1942.[5] Williams was later switched to and trained as a glider pilot, attached to the Glider Pilot Regiment.[5]

Whilst stationed at RAF St Athan air base in the Vale of Glamorgan in 1943, Matthews fought future world champion Rocky Marciano in an amateur boxing match. Marciano famously ended his career having won every professional match he fought in, but Matthews held him to a draw.[6]

Rugby careerEdit

Before winning his first cap, Matthews took part in five Victory Internationals for Wales, including the win over France in which he was captain.[4][7] Matthews played 17 Tests for Wales and six for the British and Irish Lions on their 1950 tour of New Zealand and Australia.[8] He was the team doctor for the 1980 British Lions tour to South Africa, and was a medical doctor by profession. Matthews played centre for Wales and Cardiff – forming one of the greatest midfield pairings Wales has ever had with Bleddyn Williams.

Personal lifeEdit

After the war, Matthews married Valerie and the couple went on to have two sons, Peter and Robin. Valerie died in 1996.

Later lifeEdit

Matthews continued his connection with sport after retiring from playing rugby. He maintained links with boxing, becoming the medical officer to the Welsh Boxing Association. He was also chosen to be the medical doctor for the 1980 British Lions tour of South Africa.

Despite his close links with rugby, Matthews showed an uncompromising stance in his views on how the game should be played. In 2004 he publicly attacked Sir Clive Woodward's coaching methods before the 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.[9] In the 1981 Queen's Honours Birthday List, he was awarded the OBE.[4]

In 2009, Matthews suffered a severe stroke that left him speechless.[10] He died in July 2012, aged 92.[11]


  1. ^ Jack Matthews. espnscrum.com
  2. ^ "Obituaries:Dr Jack Matthews". The Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Hignal (2007) p. 112
  4. ^ a b c Jenkins, John M.; et al. (1991). Who's Who of Welsh International Rugby Players. Wrexham: Bridge Books. p. 107. ISBN 1-872424-10-4.
  5. ^ a b Gallagher, Brendan (8 March 2008). "Dr Jack Matthews, Bleddyn Williams are heroes". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Rocky's little-known Welsh connection". BBC. 5 November 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  7. ^ Hignal (2007) p. 113
  8. ^ Jack Matthews. lionsrugby.com
  9. ^ "Lions in public war of words". icWales.co.uk. 4 August 2004. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
  10. ^ Dagnall, Andrew (22 February 2009). "Lions legend Jack Matthews is left speechless by a stroke". Wales on Sunday. WalesOnline.co.uk. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Dr Jack Matthews Wales rugby legend dies". BBC News. 18 July 2012.


  • Hignall, Andrew; Prescott, Gwyn (2007). Cardiff: Sporting Greats. Stroud: Stadia. ISBN 978-0-7524-4286-0.
  • Smith, David; Williams, Gareth (1980). Fields of Praise: The Official History of The Welsh Rugby Union. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-0766-3.
  • Thomas, Wayne (1979). A Century of Welsh Rugby Players. Ansells Ltd.

External linksEdit