Tomos Owen reviews Carwyn by Alun Richards


Parthian, £8.99

‘Carwyn James’, remarks Alun Richards, ‘was a boring topic to Carwyn James.’ More stimulating to him was ‘your latest novel, your new programme, the remark made by so-and-so to so-and-so’. Yet the tendency to deflect conversation away from himself and back on to his interlocutor was not only a form of personal reticence; rather, it was crucial to James’s entire outlook. Time and again, the Carwyn who emerges from the pages of Richards’s biography is the listener, the observer, and – crucially – the thinker. Preparing the 1972 Llanelli side before taking the field against the touring All Blacks, James demanded that his players ‘Think about it! Think about it! Think about it! It’s a thinking game!’ The Welsh flanker John Taylor talks of James ‘treating the game as an art form, a great combination of the aesthetic and the competitive’. ‘He just made you think’, remarks Gerald Davies. The dossier he prepared on the players and provinces of New Zealand ahead of the 1971 British Lions was hailed as part of a pioneering, professorial approach to coaching. Tour captain John Dawes put him ‘on a different plane to other people. He was ever learning.’ Team talks were thoughtful and studious, not tub-thumping or aggressive.

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