Mervyn Davies, the Welsh rugby player who died Friday at the age of 65, kept his immaculate timing to the very end. His death from cancer came the day before Wales was to play France in Cardiff in the final round of the European Six Nations championship. Wales’s class of 2012 will attempt to emulate their predecessors of 1976 who, led by Davies in the last of his 38 matches for his country, beat France in Cardiff to claim both the championship and the “Grand Slam” feat of beating every opponent. Flags will fly at half-mast over the Millennium Stadium, with the usually raucous pre-match atmosphere punctuated by a minute’s silence.
Known widely as Merv the Swerve, Davies was part of one of the most extraordinary localized generations of talent in any sport. He was born in Swansea in 1946. Barry John, Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett were all born within 25 miles, or 40 kilometers, and two years of him
Each is a serious contender when fans debate the “greatest ever” in their playing positions. Each still commands Wales’s supreme popular tribute — to be recognizable simply by their first names. Fond memories of the brilliance of Welsh teams of the 1970s extend far beyond the borders of Wales.
Mervyn Davies stood slightly apart from the others. He was a city boy, while the others grew up in smaller communities. They were backs, he was a forward. His memoir was called simply “Number 8.” That was his position, the middle man of the three at the back of the scrum. He did not simply make the position his own — he redefined it.
What a player he was.....and what a loss