Wales and Lions No.10 legend Barry John pays tribute to his former coach, Clive Rowlands, who was instrumental in leading Wales rugby during the start of the 1970s golden era.
Rowlands’ unique character and coaching style left a lasting impact on the players, including Barry himself, Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett, and Mervyn Davies.
Under Rowlands’ guidance, Wales achieved numerous Grand Slams and Triple Crowns, and his influence extended to managing the Lions in Australia in 1989.
This article delves into the special qualities that made Clive Rowlands an exceptional coach and the stories shared by Barry John about their remarkable journey together.
The Power of Welshness: A Pre-Match Motivation
Clive Rowlands’ coaching brilliance extended beyond rugby strategies; he had a profound understanding of the Welsh spirit and used it to inspire his players.
Barry John reminisces about a significant showdown with England at Twickenham, where Rowlands gathered the team in a small room, emphasizing the importance of being Welsh and the pride they should share.
Instead of focusing on the game or England’s strengths and weaknesses, Rowlands connected the team to their roots, instilling a deep sense of determination.
He left them with a powerful image of the widespread support they had back home, stating that “even the dogs are barking in Welsh today.”
The result was a resounding victory over England, reflecting the impact of Rowlands’ motivational prowess.
Loyalty to Wales: A Shared Trait with Lions Coach Carwyn James
Rowlands’ loyalty to Wales was unparalleled, akin to that of Barry John’s Lions coach, Carwyn James.
Although the British Lions comprised players from different countries, James always stressed the importance of acknowledging their individual nationalities.
Similarly, Rowlands managed the Lions in Australia in 1989, adopting the same ideology.
He recognized that to be a formidable team, they had to unite under a common goal while cherishing their roots and identities.
The connection between Rowlands and James was evident in their shared passion for rugby and their ability to mold talented players into a cohesive unit.
The Unexpected Captaincy Drama
When John Dawes stepped down as Welsh captain, Barry John’s name was frequently mentioned as a potential replacement due to his exceptional skills as a No.10.
However, to Barry’s surprise, the last thing he wanted was the captaincy.
Frustrated by the rumors, he expressed his concerns to Clive Rowlands, launching into a passionate monologue about why he wasn’t the right fit for the role.
To his surprise, Rowlands hadn’t even considered him for captaincy.
With a touch of humor, Rowlands reminded Barry of his pivotal role in leading the team’s tactics, making it clear that nothing needed to change.
This anecdote highlights the trust and understanding between coach and player, leading to the team’s cohesiveness and success.
The Art of Coaching: Empowering the Back Division
Clive Rowlands’ coaching philosophy centered on empowering players and fostering trust within the team.
He left the star-studded Welsh back division to their own devices, focusing his efforts on the forwards, ensuring they provided a solid platform for the brilliance of players like Barry John, Gareth Edwards, and JPR Williams to shine.
Rowlands’ meticulous approach to organization during training sessions, such as their drills at Aberavon beach, allowed the forwards to develop a deep understanding of each other’s roles, fostering cohesion in the team.
He trusted the back division to work cohesively, knowing they were a group of talented individuals who could excel with minimal intervention.
This approach proved to be instrumental in Wales’ remarkable success during that era.
Clive Rowlands was a masterful coach whose impact on Welsh rugby during the 1970s golden era cannot be overstated.
Beyond his tactical expertise, Rowlands understood the importance of motivating his players through their shared Welsh identity and empowering them to make decisions on the field.
His loyalty to Wales and dedication to coaching allowed him to guide the team to numerous victories and cemented his place as a rugby visionary.
The anecdotes shared by Barry John provide a glimpse into the extraordinary relationship between player and coach and the profound influence Clive Rowlands had on the team’s success.