JOHN Dawes, the legendary former Wales and Lions captain and coach, has died at the age of 80.

Dawes is the only man to have led the British and Irish Lions to a series victory in New Zealand after being skipper on the 1971 tour.

The Abercarn-born centre won 22 caps for Wales after his debut in 1964 and was captain for the Grand Slam triumph in 1971 before heading off to face the All Blacks.

Dawes became national coach and won the Five Nations title four times, two of them Grand Slams, and won four triple crowns. He coached the Lions in New Zealand in 1977.

He started his playing career in Newbridge and the Welfare Ground club paid tribute to an icon of rugby.

"After a period of ill health, John Dawes sadly passed away this morning,” they Tweeted on Friday.

"Everyone associated with our game will be aware of John's story and his great achievements.

"His venture into senior rugby started with us here at the Welfare Ground.

"The heartfelt condolences of everyone at Newbridge RFC go out to John's family at this very sad time."

Barry And District News:

Born in Abercarn in 1940, Dawes was educated at Lewis School, Pengam, before going on to Aberystwyth University and Loughborough College.

He became a schoolteacher and won his first Welsh cap at the age of 23, scoring a try against Ireland on his debut in a 13-6 win.

He launched his first-class career at Newbridge before switching to London Welsh when he got a teaching job in London.

He toured South Africa with Wales in 1964 and helped Wales to win the Triple Crown in 1965 and 1969 before captaining them to Grand Slam success in 1971.

After stepping down as national coach he became the WRU Coaching Organiser for a decade from 1980-90.

Dawes was inducted into World Rugby's hall of fame five years ago.

Barry And District News:

“John was a fantastic captain and a great coach. He is one of the giant figures of Welsh rugby of any era,” said legend Gareth Edwards.

“He wasn’t the fastest or most elusive player, but everyone around him benefitted from his great skill and his distribution.

"You only have to look back at the 1971 Lions tour to see how Ireland’s Mike Gibson shone playing outside him in the centre.

“He was part of the great try scoring move for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973 and I can still hear Cliff Morgan in commentary say ‘Dawes, great dummy’. That moment encapsulated John as he helped to set up a score that has never been forgotten.”