Former Irish Lions and Wales center Ken Jones passed away at 81

Ken Jones, who won six Test caps for the British and Irish Lions across two Tours, has gone away at the age of 81.

Centre Jones made his Wales debut in 1962 against England at Twickenham and just three international games later were called up for the Lions Tour to South Africa in 1966 at the age of 21.

Lions And Wales Centre Jones dies at the age of 81

He got 14 caps for Wales, played in six Tests on two Lions tours, received a Blue in his one year at Oxford and scored a try in Cardiff’s win over the Wallabies in 1966. After quitting rugby aged 27, he worked for the Confederation of British Industry in Wales. He was part of a team responsible for recruiting inbound investment from Japanese corporations and helped to lure Takiron, the plastics division of Itochu, one of Japan’s major trade companies, to Wales.

When the Takiron facility debuted in Bedwas in 1972 it was major news – the first company from Japan to come to Wales and just the second to start manufacturing in Britain. Ken Jones became its managing director and eventually chairman in the seventies and nineties. He was also on the board of governors of Cardiff University and the University of Wales, as well as chairman of governors of the Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagan’s and a council member of the National Museum of Wales. Born in Carmarthen, he resided in Cross Hands and then attended Gwendraeth Grammar School.

He enjoyed a successful career as a schoolboy, winning 11 caps at Under15 and U19 age levels and losing only once. He was in the Wales U15 team that beat the South of Scotland and England and then played three years in the senior school’s team, captaining the side in his final two seasons. Having won eight games in a row against Yorkshire Schools, England and France, he lost his final game, 3-0, to the French in Cardiff.

Llanelli Debut

Ken Jones made his Llanelli debut while still at school and was in the team that won the Snelling Sevens title for the first time in April 1960, while still a teenager. He proceeded to Cardiff University later that year and joined Llanelli full-time at the start of the 1960-61 season.

Ken Jones made an immediate impression and played at No 10 against the touring Springboks in tandem with Onllwyn Brace at half-back. The South Africans, who stayed unbeaten until their final encounter against the Barbarians, won 21-0. Within a few years, he was waging battle with the ‘Boks once again as part of the 1962 British & Irish Lions group.

He gained his first Welsh trial within three months of entering senior rugby and made his Wales debut at centre against England at Twickenham on 20 January 1962 in a game that finished in a 0-0 tie. He kept his spot for the games against Scotland and France and then played in the hungover match against the Irish in Dublin that was postponed to the next season due to a smallpox outbreak. By the time the Irish game was played, Jones had toured with the Lions in South Africa, participating in 13 games and scoring nine tries in 13 appearances.

Foreign Tour

He participated in the first three Tests and scored the try 10 minutes from time that helped the Lions to draw the inaugural international in Johannesburg,3-3. He jinked through the defence and then dashed 60 metres to score. Ken was back in South Africa two years later when Wales undertook their first foreign tour, this time on the end of a 24-3 defeat in Durban. He also toured there with Cardiff in 1967.

Having made 140 appearances for Llanelli between 1960-65, including forging “a devastating midfield combination” with Gerald Davies in the 1964-65 season, he went east to Cardiff with former schoolmate Rob Morgan, the Wales wing. Davies quickly followed and the two men were reunited at centre for the 1966 win against the Wallabies. Jones got 10 of his 14 caps from Llanelli and four from Cardiff, where he made 104 appearances over five seasons, including a game against the 1969 Springboks.

Lions Tour

He was again selected for a second Lions tour in 1966 to Australia and New Zealand, one of 11 Welshmen. It was one of the longest Lions tours of all time, the players leaving on 30 April and returning home on 19 September after playing 35 matches in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Having played in the two test victory over the Wallabies, Jones featured in the first Test in New Zealand, but none of the other three.

His 16 matches boosted his total for the Lions on two tours to 29. During the Australian part of the tour, he was approached by the St George rugby league team and invited to switch codes. Leeds had already tried to break the bank for him, paying what would have been a world record sum of £12,000 for his services.

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As well as playing five times for the Barbarians, and spending time at Old Deer Park playing for London Welsh, he played for Oxford University in the 1963 Varsity Match defeat to Cambridge at Twickenham. He also played for the Dark Blues against 1963 touring All Blacks while studying for a master’s degree at Merton College. The WRU sends profound condolences to the family and friends of ‘DK’.