Figures from the rugby world and beyond have come together to pay tribute to Barry John following the British & Irish Lions star’s death aged 79.
John, nicknamed “The King” due to his brilliance from fly-half during the 1971 Tour of New Zealand, was considered one of the game’s greatest-ever players.
He was influential when the Lions beat the All Blacks 2-1 in a historic Tour and formed a legendary half-back partnership with fellow Welshman Sir Gareth Edwards.
Obituary: Barry John
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Edwards said: “He was a one-off, no doubt about that.
“He was carefree but had such vision when it came to playing the game. Even under the most immense pressure he would just stand there, look up and do something unbelievable.
“He was friendly and always wanted to chat, but he was also lethal on the rugby field when he decided to do something.”
Along with his five appearances for The Lions across the 1968 and 1971 Tours, he earned 25 caps for Wales in a hugely successful period for the national side, winning three Five Nations, a Grand Slam and two Triple Crowns.
He called time on his career aged just 27 but provided inspiration for many who have gone on to wear the famous Wales or Lions shirts.
Former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton said: “What he contributed to the game, even now, 50 years later, still transcends rugby across the world and he hasn’t picked up a ball for 50 years.
“They are heroes for so many people. The legacy that they’ve left Welsh rugby means when you pick up that shirt that you’re following in their footsteps.”
His outlandish talent brought many new eyes to the sport, and a year before he retired, he finished third in the 1971 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, pipped only by Princess Anne and George Best.
Much like Best, he was not just adored on the field but loved off it with many stating he was rugby’s first star.
Saddened to hear of Barry John’s passing. We’ve lost another giant of Wales & Lions rugby, an icon of his era and an inspiration for a generation to get into rugby. Condolences to his family, friends & welsh rugby community.
— Sir Bill Beaumont (@BillBeaumont) February 5, 2024
Only one rugby player in history could have hung out and done photoshoots with George Best without appearing ludicrous. RIP Barry John 🏴 pic.twitter.com/OMpq6ygRSy
— Graham Thomas (@Graham_Thomas) February 4, 2024
RIP Barry ❤️🙏another one of my heroes sadly gone. #BarryJohnTheKing pic.twitter.com/HOD9S0ZsYq
— Jonathan Davies OBE (@JiffyRugby) February 4, 2024
My greatest idol of all time has gone, RIP Barry John I fell in love with rugby because of you. Another legend has left us but you and Gareth were the greatest of all time As a 6 year old boy I started watching him and only a few years later he had retired and I cried all week🙏 pic.twitter.com/OcK0Nh4so2
— John Devereux (@DevereuxJohn13) February 4, 2024
Along with his established international career, he brought joy to Cefneithin, Llanelli, Cardiff and Barbarians fans across the country.
It is with a heavy heart that we report of the passing our very own “Brenin” Barry John. Born and raised in the village, Barry went on to achieve greatness on the rugby field as well as serving as club president. Our thoughts and prayers are with Barry’s friends and family 💚💛 pic.twitter.com/0JemkLIbjG
— Cefneithin RFC (@CefneithinRFC) February 5, 2024
We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the great Barry John
Barry played 87 games for the club across four seasons and was fly-half when we beat Australia in 1967
An icon of the game, our thoughts are with family, friends and former team-mates at this sad time pic.twitter.com/YhYkpWeQer
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) February 4, 2024
We are absolutely devastated to learn of the passing of Barry John. One of the greatest players to pull on the Blue and Black and what a partnership he shared with Sir Gareth.
An absolute icon of @Cardiff_RFC , @WelshRugbyUnion and @lionsofficial who will be dearly missed.… pic.twitter.com/6NTtzjnlpT
— Cardiff Rugby (@Cardiff_Rugby) February 4, 2024
Very sad news as rugby loses another legendary talent & wonderful character.
RIP Barry 🏉
— Barbarian FC (@Barbarian_FC) February 4, 2024
Barry John’s famous words to Gareth Edwards are remembered as “You throw it, I’ll catch it”.
In reality, they spoke Welsh with each other and he actually said, “Twla di fe, ddala i fe”. 🏉
He floated across the field with ease.
Nos da Barry John 🏴 pic.twitter.com/8PlgfUrLa3
— Cymru Wales 🏴 (@Cym_Wal) February 4, 2024
Former players and journalists from across rugby also shared their memories of one of Wales’s greatest athletes.
ITV’s Chris Skudder said: “He was so gifted as a fly-half, it was said he could side-step a player in a telephone box.
“There was only one Barry John.”
Newyddion trist iawn 💔
Another one of our great rugby sons leaves us.
Thank you King Barry John for the memories.
Nos da 🙏🏽🏴#BarryJohn pic.twitter.com/xn2N7ZOtu0
— Jason Mohammad (@jasonmohammad) February 4, 2024
The front page in Wales on this sad Monday morning #BarryJohn #BarryJohnTheKing pic.twitter.com/seYvM379zv
— Mike Pearce Rugby (@MPsportsdragon) February 5, 2024
Very sad to hear the news of the passing of BARRY JOHN – ‘KING JOHN’ – LEGEND OF RUGBY LEGENDS and one of THE nicest guys I ever had the privilege of spending time with. What a gentleman and a lovely man. #BarryJohn #BarryJohnTheKing pic.twitter.com/LzGw4CZUiq
— Paul Trevillion (@PaulTrevillion) February 5, 2024
RIP Barry John, the King. Another legend of the game lost – very sad.
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) February 4, 2024
Welsh Rugby Union’s president Terry Cobner added to the tributes, he said: “To be crowned ‘The King’ in New Zealand when every back row forward in both the North and South Islands is trying to take your head off is quite some accolade.”.
“For me, he has got to be right up there among the greatest outside halves who have ever played the game – probably the greatest.
“He was a glider, rather than a sidestepper, who had a subtle change of pace and direction. Coming on top of the recent deaths of Brian Price and JPR Williams, this is another huge blow for Welsh rugby.
“After what he did for Wales and the Lions in 1971, those of us who followed him into both teams always felt we had huge shoes to fill. He was and will remain a legend of our game.”