Matthewsâ00 defence was legendary. In a similar manner to that of his contemporary countryman Scott Gibbs, he tackled far above his weight and was perhaps the major reason why the 1950 Lions earned a reputation for their whole-hearted rearguard action as well as their silky running.
Matthews gained the ultimate respect of the New Zealand public who christened him â00Iron Manâ00 in recognition of his destructive attributes and his brave-hearted nature.
That nickname was more than appropriate considering Matthewsâ00 exploits off the pitch and inside the boxing ring. For eight years between 1947 and 1955, Rocky Marciano was the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, yet Matthews more than held his own when the two faced each other at RAF St Athan in 1943. Marciano knocked out 43 of his 49 opponents during his unprecedented professional reign yet Matthews went the distance in a three-round amateur contest with the then 19-year-old GI, with no winner declared at the bell.
By the time of the 1950 tour, Matthews was a 30-year-old veteran who would play in all six Test matches against the All Blacks and the Wallabies. He formed an instrumental centre pairing with fellow Welshman Bleddyn Williams, with whom he also played his domestic rugby for the highly successful Cardiff club. Matthews also captained the tourists when Williams and Karl Mullen were unavailable in provincial fixtures.
Thirty years after touring with the Lions as a player, Matthews earned his place in another British & Irish Lions squad, this time as team doctor.
Jack Matthewsâ00 factfile
Date of birth: June 21 1920
Clubs: Bridgend, Cardiff, Newport
International caps: Wales 17
Height: 5ft 8in (1.75m)
Weight: 15 stone (93kg)
Matthewsâ00 Lions lowdown
Lions debut: Versus Marlborough / Nelson / Golden Bay-Moutueka, May 10, 1950
Lions Tests: 6 (All four Tests vs NZ 1950, both Tests vs Aus 1950)
Lions non-Test appearances: 14
Total Lions appearances: 20
Lions points: 30* (six tries) *under the current scoring system of five points for a try
Final Lions appearance: Versus New South Wales XV, Newcastle, September 4, 1950
Jack Matthews (l) with fellow Lion, centre partner and close friend Bleddyn Williams
On the 1950 tour
â00The tour cost me a lot of money! I had to pay a locum doctor over Â£5,000 and we were giving seven shillings a day expenses by the International Board. It wasnâ00t very easy but my wife said, â00yes you can goâ00.â0
â00I enjoyed the rugby and that was the main thing. I think it is the ultimate for any rugby player, whatever nationality, English, Irish, Welsh or Scottish.
â00There was lots of training onboard the ship on the way over as two of the players, John Robins and Ken Jones, were PT officers. We also had lots of meetings together daily so there was good bond.â0
On playing for Cardiff and with fellow Welsh Lion Bleddyn Williams
â00We had a great post-war side with Cardiff. Our home gate was 35,000, that was the average. Cardiff soccer were in the first division then and we were getting more than them.
â00Bleddyn and I had been playing together since 1938 and weâ00ve been friends ever since.â0
On the 1980 tour to South Africa
â00I was the team doctor for the Lions in 1980, the first time theyâ00d ever taken one. Bill Beaumont was captain and Syd Millar was manager.
â00There was a tremendous amount of injuries and there werenâ00t many games where we had 15 men on the field. There were a lot of injuries and it was hard work.â0