Wales' Mervyn Davies dies
London - Wales and British Lions legend Mervyn Davies has died after a long illness, the Welsh Rugby Union announced on Friday. He was 65.
Davies captained Wales to a Grand Slam in 1976 and was a member of the British Lions sides that won series in New Zealand in 1971 and South Africa three years later.
The former London Welsh and Swansea number eight won 38 caps for Wales and played in eight Tests for the Lions.
His playing career was cut short after he suffered a brain haemorrhage playing for Swansea against Pontypool in 1976.
"The Welsh Rugby Union is saddened to learn of the death of Mervyn Davies who deservedly earned a worldwide reputation as one of the greats of the modern game," the WRU said in a statement.
"Flags at the Millennium Stadium are flying at half-mast from today in honour."
News of Davies' death comes on the eve of Wales bid for a Grand Slam against France in Cardiff on Saturday.
Former Wales and Lions team-mate Phil Bennett paid tribute to his friend, insisting Davies would have captained the 1977 Lions had his career not ended prematurely.
He revealed how Davies' talents shone through on the 1974 Lions tour, when the back row raised his game to take his place in the Test team ahead of England's in-form Andy Ripley.
"'Rippers' was playing the rugby of his life, and Mervyn said, 'I'm going to step my game up'," Bennett told BBC radio.
"And he started to play rugby football like I've never seen him play before. He was totally outstanding.
"I was captain of the 1977 Lions that went out to New Zealand.
"Mervyn Davies suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1976 playing (for Swansea) against Pontypool in Cardiff in the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup.
"Without doubt he'd have been skipper of that '77 tour and thoroughly would have deserved it.
"That's the fate life plays on you at times.
"To lose him so tragically is absolutely devastating."
Meanwhile, WRU president Dennis Gethin mourned the loss of "a great player, a wonderful ambassador for the game and a true gentlemen.
"I played against Mervyn many times and knew just how good he was but I also grew to appreciate him as a true friend," he said.
WRU chairman and former Wales captain David Pickering added: "Mervyn Davies was a man who epitomised the values of Welsh rugby and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him and all who knew of him.
"He was a giant of the game, both on and off the field, for London Welsh, Swansea, Wales, the Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions.
"He bore his illness with courage and his memory will undoubtedly live on within our game for all time."