June 4 marks the 25th anniversary of the last Wales team to play in the old amateur era, a 1995 defeat at the World Cup. Things were very different in the months before the sport officially turned professional. There were only 21 players in a squad. You could only bring on a player due to injury, and buckets of sand were brought on instead of kicking tees at a tournament that the Springboks went on to gloriously win in the final versus New Zealand.
For Wales, their 1995 World Cup campaign hinged on their final pool match versus Ireland at Ellis Park, that grand old dame of a South African rugby stadium in Johannesburg. Both the Welsh and the Irish had been brushed aside by the emerging global phenomenon of Jonah Lomu in the pool stages, the All Blacks securing top spot and leaving the Celtic rivals in a straight shoot-out for the other quarter-final place.
The form book was hard to gauge going into the 1995 World Cup: Wales regularly beat Ireland at Lansdowne Road and Ireland regularly returned the favour at the Arms Park. In the end, the Irish, guided by the nerveless Eric Elwood, emerged victorious by a single point (24-23) after tries from flanker Denis McBride, prop Nick Popplewell and replacement Eddie Halvey in an encounter unrecognisable from the pro era.
Wales had a late try from Hemi Taylor to give the World Cup scoreboard a sheen of respectability, but some of their players were never to wear the famous three feathers again after 1995. RugbyPass takes a look at what happened to the last of these Wales amateurs and how they fared when the game turned pro:
15. Tony Clement
Clement was the dashing, counter-attacking full-back who battled it out with the doughty and durable Paul Thorburn for the Welsh No15 shirt. His verve with the ball in hand could be thrilling and was enough to see him travel as a Lions replacement in 1989 at just 21 and again to New Zealand in 1993. World Cups in 1991 and 1995 followed but like so many cavalier talents in Wales, his international career was never fully fulfilled.
14. Ieuan Evans
A veteran of three Lions tours, Evans was nicknamed the ‘Carmarthen Cowboy’ and with 79 Test caps, was a player of genuine quality. He was renowned for his jinking runs, often stepping off his right foot to cut infield. A former Welsh captain on 28 occasions, Evans was a brilliant finisher crossing the whitewash on 34 occasions for Wales. Post-rugby, Evans married the model, Kathryn Smith, and has worked as a regular pundit on Sky Sports for a number of years. His son, Cai, plays for the Ospreys at fly-half and full-back.
13. Mike Hall
Hailing from Brynteg School in Bridgend, which has produced the likes of Gavin Henson, JPR Williams and Rob Howley, Wales’ loss to Ireland in the 1995 World Cup was to be Hall’s final appearance in a Welsh shirt. The Welsh captain leading into the tournament, he was one of the more cerebral members of the Welsh squad having attended Cambridge University. After retiring he became a successful rugby pundit with the BBC and had a high-profile directorship at Cardiff City. He was also a well-known property developer.
12. Neil Jenkins
For a while, Jenkins was the leading points scorer in Test rugby with 1,089 points and his metronomic boot enough to see him travel on two Lions tours, notably in 1997 where his right peg helped the tourists to a notable series win. For Wales, Jenkins was consistency personified, winning 87 caps. Perhaps unfairly pigeonholed as a kicking fly-half, Jenkins had underrated distribution and was fleet of foot in his early years. Since retiring, he spent twelve years as Warren Gatland’s kicking and skills coach and has continued his role with Wayne Pivac. He was an assistant coach on three Lions tours.
11. Gareth Thomas
Where do you start? ‘Alfie’ was the first Welsh player to win 100 caps for his country and scored four tries against Japan at the 1995 World Cup in only his second start. Captain for Wales’ first Grand Slam in 2005, Thomas went on to captain the Lions in the same year and win a Heineken Cup with Toulouse. A gifted athlete and charismatic figure, the Bridgend-born player played on the wing and at full-back and came out as gay in 2009. He has since raised awareness for the LGBT community in sport and is a well-known fixture on the reality TV scene, often championing the rights of minorities. In 2019, he revealed he was HIV positive.
10. Adrian Davies
Like Hall, born in Bridgend and a Cambridge Blue, Davies was the surprise choice at fly-half for the 1995 World Cup. An astute game manager with Cardiff and Neath at club level, Davies ended up playing at two World Cup, 1991 and 1995, but only registered nine caps. On retiring, he was a board member at London Welsh and a chartered surveyor by profession. He now works for the building consultancy, Paragon.
9. Robert Jones
One of only six scrum-halves to have crossed the 50-cap mark with Wales, for a period, Jones battled it out with Nick Farr-Jones as the world’s premier No9. Small with brilliant service, he played for Swansea on 286 occasions and was a combative presence at the base of the scrum on the 1989 and 1993 Lions tours. He formed a feted half-back partnership with Jonathan Davies and after retiring at the 1995 World Cup, he continues to be a respected pundit for BBC Wales. In his day job, he works alongside fellow Wales scrum-half Brynmor Williams at insurance group Thomas Carroll.
1. Mike Griffiths
When Griffiths left the field disconsolate after the loss to Ireland, he thought it would be his last outing in a Wales shirt before making one more appearance three years later in the same country. It was not a happy send-off as Wales went down 96-13 in a notorious capitulation. Built like a brick outhouse and hailing from the Rhondda valley, Griffiths played for Bridgend and Cardiff in a career that saw him represent Wales at two World Cups and the successful 1989 Lions tour. After a stint as scrum coach with Pontypridd, Griffiths now works in civil engineering.
2. Jonathan Humphreys
A nuggety hooker who enjoyed a 13-year association at club level with Cardiff before finishing his career at Bath. At international level, Humphreys’ leadership qualities saw him captaining Wales on 19 occasions where his never-take-a-backwards-step attitude chimed with the Welsh public even though the side had a series of disappointing results. Post playing, Humphreys has gone on to forge a hugely successful coaching career. He spent seven years at the Ospreys before heading up to Scotland to work as a scrum coach for the national team, latterly spending two years at Glasgow Warriors assistant coach. In December he formally rejoined the Welsh set-up to support new boss Pivac.
3. John Davies
A West Walian farmer by profession, Davies locked down the Scarlets and Wales scrum throughout the nineties, winning 38 caps. Famously durable, the tighthead spent 18 years with Neath and Richmond but is perhaps best known for his stint at Llanelli. Born in Cardigan, the prop kept playing at senior level until he was 38 and was still turning out for his local side, Crymych, into his late forties. He has continued farming and sells farm produce in West Wales.
4. Derwyn Jones
The tallest man to play for Wales at 6ft 10ins, Jones was a target – not just for his hookers in a career that earned him 19 caps in the mid-nineties, he was also infamously felled by a Kobus Wiese haymaker when playing against the Springboks. He spent most of his club career with the Cardiff Blues and after retirement, alongside media commitments as a commentator, he made his name as a players’ agent. He is currently the managing director of Win Sports, looking after the likes of Rhys Webb, Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate.
5. Gareth Llewellyn
For a period, Llewellyn was Wales’ most capped player. A skilled lineout technician, when he hung up his boots against New Zealand in 2004 he had 92 caps to his name and three World Cups under his belt. The 6ft 6in lock was widely travelled at club level in a 20-year playing career, turning out for Harlequins, Narbonne and Bristol, he is best known for a decade of service for Neath. Now working in the medical services industry after dabbling in coaching, he is keeping involved in rugby through is his son Max, a strapping 6ft 5in centre at the Cardiff Blues.
6. Stuart Davies
Davies played on 17 occasions for Wales as a ball-carrying No8 but is best known for captaining Swansea, turning out for the All Whites 245 times over 15 seasons. After retiring, Davies became a respected commentator and pundit for BBC Wales and returned to rugby on a full-time basis as chief executive of the Dragons in 2015 only to depart nearly three years later as the WRU took charge of the region. He is now working at Morganstone, a construction company in West Wales.
7. Hemi Taylor
He was an uncompromising sort on the field and became the first New Zealander to play for Wales in 1994. Able to play across the back row, Taylor started out with Newbridge but made his name with the Blue and Black of Cardiff where he won 24 caps for Wales in the mid-nineties, which was a period of modest success for Wales. A boiler-maker by trade, Taylor now runs a farm and holiday home near Cardigan Bay with his wife Carys.
8. Emyr Lewis
Nicknamed ‘Tarw’ (the Welsh for bull) for his prodigious strength, Lewis was a hard-running back row who loved to skittle players on their backsides. He turned out for Wales on 41 occasions between 1991 and 1996, captaining the side on occasion and had a distinguished club career with Llanelli and Cardiff before retiring in 1999. Post-career, Lewis has worked for BBC Wales and the Welsh language S4C, while also working in tech sales roles.
June 4, 1995, replacements: Garin Jenkins, Ricky Evans, Stuart Roy, Andy Moore, Wayne Proctor, Dai Evans.
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