'That Try' - The Royal Hotel Connection
The Former 'Barbarians Room' at The Royal
The connection between rugby and The Royal, being located so close to Cardiff Arms Park and today The Millennium Stadium runs deep. None more so than its days as the home of The Barbarians Rugby Club, the national and today international travelling team of specially invited all-star players.
The Royal was once the home of the Barbarians, and they had their own function room named after them, with Barbarians shirts and memorabilia on its walls.
The former Barbarians Room at The Royal Hotel
Here is the story of 'That Try' scored by legend Gareth Edwards, on that historic day January 27th 1973, when The Barbarians beat the legendary New Zealand All Blacks xxxx at The Arms Park:
John Dawes, the Welsh centre who captained the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973, and figured in 'That Try' remembers a magical afternoon:
"It was the Sunday before the match when I received the call. "Can you play for the Barbarians against the All Blacks on Saturday?" a voice asked. "Oh yeah, and will you be captain as well?"
My acceptance wasn't as simple as you might think. I had retired from international rugby by then - the triumphant Lions tour to New Zealand in 1971, on which I was fortunate enough to be skipper, a glorious highlight of any career - and my club, London Welsh, were playing London Scottish on that day in an important cup match. "I'll get back to you tomorrow," I told them, but my club were kind enough to let me turn out for the Baa-Baas instead. It's impossible to imagine that happening nowadays.
One of the conditions I set was that Carwyn James, the Llanelli coach and the genius who guided us to glory in '71, would be allowed to coach us. The Baa-Baas hierarchy weren't that keen, as it was not in their tradition to have coaches, but we felt that this was perfect opportunity to show the British public the sort of rugby the Lions had played Down Under two years previous. Remember, there hadn't been much television coverage from that tour.
Alas, when the squad met up on Thursday at Penarth RFC, a few miles outside Cardiff, there was no Carwyn to be seen. Nevertheless, we had a runaround, although you could hardly call it a "session". A renewal of acquaintances would be more accurate. The same thing happened on Friday - no Carwyn, a little "training".
We all really wanted the great man involved, however, so on the morning of the match I decided to act. We were staying in the Royal Hotel, a mere stone's throw from Cardiff Arms Park, and I invited Carwyn up to my room at 11am for a coffee.
Lo and behold, when he walked in, the whole of the team just happened to be jammed into that small room. It was worth the squeeze as Carwyn gave us an inspirational 20-minute pep-talk that was capped with his call to arms to the then largely unheralded Phil Bennett. "We all know what you can do," he told the young Llanelli outside-half. "Now go out there and show the world." Words have rarely been as prophetic.