x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Football's loss was the Arms Park's gain

Gareth Edwards was a phenomenal all-round athlete who is convinced he was good enough in his schoolboy days to have played football for Wales instead of rugby.

Gareth Edwards was a phenomenal all-round athlete who is convinced he was good enough in his schoolboy days to have played football for Wales instead of rugby. He could also have been trained into an Olympic athlete if he had chosen to follow that path. He reflected dilemma on his visit to Abu Dhabi on an ambassadorial mission in advance of next year's Lions tour to South Africa.

"When I was a kid, I said to my dad 'I am going to play for Wales, where do you want me to play - Cardiff Arms Park or Ninian Park?' I was that confident I could do either," he said. "If I scored three goals playing soccer in the street it would be Ninian Park, if I scored four tries for the school team it would be the Arms Park. Then all of a sudden, rugby found me, so my confusion was sorted out. I didn't have to sit down and think any more. When I got picked for Wales it meant the debating had finished and my rugby career was about to take off."

That was in April 1967 when Edwards was 19 and it marked the start of a run of 53 international appearances for his country. Just before his international call-up he became national long jump and 440 yards hurdles champion. "But playing rugby for Wales is as good as it gets and I never looked back after that first selection," he added. wjohnson@thenational.ae