He was the electric wing who lit up Welsh rugby’s golden generation. A talent so bright he went simply by his initials.
JJ Williams passed away yesterday, leaving a nation to mourn one of its sporting greats and be forever thankful for the memories he left.
“He is quite simply a legend,” Shane Williams, Wales’ record try scorer, told Mirror Sport. “I held JJ in the highest regard, as did the rest of Wales and probably further afield than that."
Eddie Jones nodded in agreement, recalling how as a kid thousands of miles from Wales his PE teacher would play him and his pals tapes of “that great Wales side - and that great commentary”.
“Bill McLaren used to call those games,” he said. “‘The ball goes from JPR to JJ’.. and he would be flying down the wing. It is very sad news.”
In 30 Tests for his country, John James Williams scored 12 tries as Wales helped themselves to four Five Nations titles, two with Grand Slams.
He sprinted for Wales in the Commonwealth Games, clocking 10.6 seconds, and used that lightning pace to bag five tries in seven Tests for the Lions.
“As a young lad growing up I was forever told about this special team from the 1970s,” said Shane. “I loved the likes of JJ, JPR, Gerald Davies and Phil Bennett for their ability to beat defenders.
“JJ was probably the quickest in a straight line to play for Wales, and we still talk about him as one of the best. That says it all really when you think of the wingers that have come and gone since.”
So good was Williams that, within a year of his Wales debut, he was called up by the 1974 Lions to tour South Africa. It went rather well.
The tourists completed the 22-match tour unbeaten - winning three and drawing one in the four-match series. Williams scored two tries in each of the second and third Tests.
“He was at his absolute peak,” said Bennett. “The pitches were baked hard like concrete and JJ loved it because it was like being back on an athletics track. He knew no-one would catch him and they couldn’t even get close.”
Ieuan Evans agreed: “Speed is the most precious commodity in sport and on those hard fields JJ was unplayable. Marry that with his eye for a gap and his footballing ability to find space and he really was a giant of the game.”
“The Welsh Whippet” is survived by his wife Jane and three children, former 400 metres hurdles European champion Rhys, James and Kathryn.
“I’ve so many great memories of JJ,” added Bennett. “This is such a sad day.”