Welsh legend Gravell passes away

Welsh rugby legend Ray Gravell has died suddenly of a suspected heart attack while on holiday with his family in Majorca.

The 56 year old former Llanelli, Wales and British and Irish Lion centre had recently been recovering well after having a leg amputated below the knee following complications linked to diabetes which he had been suffering from for several years.

On Wednesday the Welsh Rugby Union paid tribute to him as a man who epitomised the passion, flair and dignity of his beloved Welsh nation.

He won 23 caps for Wales, famously helped Llanelli beat the All Blacks in 1972 and became a British and Irish Lion during a career in which he earned a reputation as a powerful, straight-running and hard-tackling centre who never gave less than 100 per cent commitment.

After retiring from the game, he never strayed far from rugby and became president of Llanelli RFC and the Llanelli Scarlets, while also forging a career as a rugby broadcaster for S4C and the BBC.

With his love of life, he also became a big screen and television actor but it was the game of rugby which always remained the focus of his life away from his wife Mari and their two daughters.

Ray Gravell was a true giant of Welsh rugby whose face with its familiar beard and strongly Welsh accented voice were instantly recognisable wherever in the world the game of rugby is played.

“We are all in total shock because Ray was so full of life even through the difficult health problems he suffered recently,” WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said.

“He was a wonderful ambassador for rugby and for Wales and a great example of how the game can bring out the best in a man.

“As a player, he always gave a huge amount of respect to his opponents but never gave an inch of ground to anyone he faced on the field of play.

“It is a measure of the man that he forged rugby friendships which lasted long after his playing days up until the present day.

“Most recently, he stayed close to rugby as a broadcaster and was always in the tunnel to greet the teams with a handshake and a hug before and after big games.

“It is typical of the man that he became part of the tradition of our game and he was delighted when we asked him to present the jerseys to the Welsh players in the changing rooms before Wales play South Africa at the Millennium Stadium later in November.

“Before the Rugby World Cup, it was Ray who came to the Stadium with his wife and children to announce the names of the Welsh squad to the media. He was the right man for that role because of the pride and passion he clearly displayed when he read out the list of names.

“We will miss him as a rugby legend but more importantly, we will miss Ray as a great friend and a fine, family man.”

WRU chairman David Pickering added his tribute to the former team-mate he played alongside more than 100 times for the famous Llanelli team.

It was the Llanelli skipper Ray Gravell who made 19 year old David Pickering his vice-captain for the Scarlets.

“Ray was an inspiration both on and off the field and he will never be forgotten by anyone who truly loves this game of ours,” David Pickering said.

“He was renowned for his passion and strength of character and it was always reassuring to know Ray was in the line-up and on our side.

“A lot will be said in tribute to the way Ray approached the game but it must also be remembered that he was a great and skilful player who deserved all the top honours which came his way.

“He set an example which should be followed by any youngster who wants to play rugby in a way which will make them a better and stronger human being.

“He epitomised all the best elements of the game of rugby and he will be sadly missed, not just in the world of rugby but by everyone who knew him.”

 

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