A special S4C programme will look back upon an extraordinary rugby match held to celebrate 50 years of the Urdd Gobaith Cymru movement on 26th May at 9pm.
On 26 April 1972, the brightest stars from the Wales and British and Irish Lions teams came together in Cardiff to play in a charity match in celebration of the 50th year Jubilee of the Urdd and the success of the previous summer’s Lions tour.
For the first time since the original broadcast, extended highlights from the match will be shown again, on Urdd 50: Barry John XV v Carwyn James XV, which will be shown on Tuesday 26 May at 9.00pm, on S4C.
While volunteers were busily arranging the match, the responsibility for recruiting players fell on the shoulders of two former members of the Urdd, and two sons of Cefneithin – Barry John and Carwyn James – and they did not disappoint.
With Barry captaining a team of Wales rugby stars, and Carwyn coaching a team of players from all four nations of the British and Irish Isles, a total of 22 stars from the triumphant 1971 Lions tour to New Zealand agreed to play, including captain John Dawes, Gareth Edwards, J.P.R Williams, David Duckham, Peter Dixon, Gordon Brown and several others.
John Evans, secretary and organiser on the event committee, said: “There were nine of us on the committee, two handfuls of people, and everyone worked so hard.
“The original plan was that the match would be played on Cardiff’s pitch, the Arms Park, and at that stage, everyone was more than happy with that.
“We needed to print tickets and we predicted that somewhere between 12,000 and 18,000 at the most, would want to watch the match.
“But within a fortnight of the press release being issued, all the tickets had been sold. Of course, casual rugby fans were thrilled that they could see Carwyn’s Lions and Wales play on a Wednesday night in Cardiff!
“So it was then decided that we would ask for permission from the Union if we could play the match next door, at the National Stadium.”
With such extraordinary demand, a special request was made to play the game at the home of the Wales rugby team; the Welsh Rugby Union and representatives of Welsh clubs unanimously agreed to allow the match to be played at National Stadium.
Suddenly, the home of Urdd National Treasurer, Bob Roberts, and his wife, Ann, was transformed into the “busiest office in Cardiff,” according to the Urdd Chief Executive at the time, R.E.Griffith.
Ann Roberts said: “The interest in the game was incredible, to be honest. Members of the Urdd would come over to our house every evening to go through all the ticket applications and prepare to send the tickets out to everyone. And that’s where we were for three months.
“The phone would never stop ringing. I worked as a teacher at the time and I used to come home during lunch time to answer the phone – it rang non-stop. It certainly took over our lives, but we had a lot of fun and great pleasure.”
John Evans added: “We had to contact each one of the players, write to them and make all the arrangements. Players from England, Scotland, Ireland, and of course, Wales.
“David Duckham had to travel down from Salford, for example. It was an amateur sport at the time and all anyone asked for was their expenses.
“And in the end, we got the whole lot in Cardiff, on a warm Wednesday evening in April, and that date has stayed in my head to this day.”