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Wales v New Zealand
Williams savours last win over All Blacks
November 21, 2008

The last Wales captain to lead his national side to victory over the All Blacks has lamented the passing of a bygone rugby era.

Bleddyn Williams is also praying today's Welsh ultra professionals can finally end an embarrassing losing streak at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. Williams, now 85, led the 1953 Wales side to a 13-8 triumph at the old Cardiff Arms Park and little did he know how the game -- and Wales' fortunes -- would change so markedly over the intervening 55 years.

He remains the epitome of the rugby's amateur era, a time when players held down jobs and travelled to the game by bus or train. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, a nostalgic Williams recalled the buildup to one of Wales' finest rugby moments while lamenting the trappings of today's professional era.

Williams pointed out on game day in 1953, his players arrived in Cardiff from various parts of the country on public transport less than three hours before kickoff. A quick lunch at a hotel near the Arms Park followed and then they walked alongside supporters to get into the ground.

By contrast, the current Wales squad have been housed all month at a five-star hotel and will arrive for the match in a luxury coach with a police escort. "I was glad I played when I did," said Williams, who also captained the 1950 British Lions tour to New Zealand.

"You relied on your wits when you went into a game, not hours of analysis on the opposition. You played the game as you saw it and, while international players today are paid handsomely, and why not given the money they generate, fulfillment in my era came in a different way.

"Coach's complain today if they do not have more than a week to prepare for a match but before we faced New Zealand in 1953 we just had a one-hour run-out on the Friday afternoon at Glamorgan Wanderers (a west Cardiff club)," he said.

"Players arrived at the ground by bus or train and returned home immediately afterwards, gathering again in Cardiff at midday on the day of the match. There were no coaches then and I suppose I took charge of the session."

Williams mourned the passing of an era where lasting friendships were made and rugby was more spontaneous and played for the love of the game. "I just worry that all the time put in on the training field and all the days and weeks spent in hotels is creating a boredom factor," he said. "I only ever spent one night in a hotel before a home match, when we played in Swansea."

Since that fabled win in 1953, Wales have failed to beat the All Blacks in 19 encounters but Williams, who has the unique distinction of also captaining Cardiff to victory over the tourists, was hopeful that run might finally come to an end this weekend.

After all, the Wales team are well-prepared. "I never thought then that 55 years on we would be waiting for our next victory over the All Blacks," Williams said.

"I live in hope -- perhaps the ball will bounce our way again."

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