“I know he left union early, but Maurice has not been given the acknowledgment that one of the greatest wings I have ever seen deserves.” - Gerald Davies
From Johnny Williams to Steve Ford, Nigel Walker to John Bevan and Gerald Davies to Gareth Thomas. Cardiff Arms Park has been home to some of the finest wings seen in Welsh rugby.
And in the week where the latest wing sensation - Josh Adams - is set to make his British & Irish Lions Test debut in the series decider against South Africa, we look back at one of his predecessors - Maurice Richards.
Ystrad Rhondda’s Maurice Richards was born in February 1945, and made his Blue and Blacks debut at just 18 years old.
Having initially linked up with future Arms Park team-mate, Gerald Davies, for Wales’ Secondary Schools side in 1963, Richards became a regular in the centre for Cardiff in the following season and in only his sixth game he faced the mighty New Zealand.
In the 1966-67 season he took his place on the left wing in Cardiff’s star-studded backline and it was there that he faced Australia, playing his part in a historic 14-8 victory for the club.
Maurice built a reputation as one of the game’s most potent try scorers, and his form in club colours earned him early international recognition in September 1964, where he featured in an unofficial Test against Fiji.
However, he had to wait until March 1968 to win his first cap, taking to the field against Ireland, and was duly selected for the British and Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa in 1968 - playing in 3 of the 4 tests at the age of 24.
The following season, Maurice was ever-present in the 1969 Five Nations Championship, as Wales secured the Triple Crown and the Championship. One of the most memorable performances in Richards’ career came as he crossed for four tries against England in Wales’ 30-9 victory, joining Willie Llewellyn and Reggie Gibbs in the record books.
His performances on Wales’ 1969 tour to Australia and New Zealand won him plenty of admirers in the local press. However, Maurice mentioned many years later that he was disillusioned with the refereeing in New Zealand. He thought that rugby union would never go professional as the “loose rucking” was too dangerous for a pro sport!
He turned professional with Salford’s rugby league outfit in autumn 1969, joining the long procession of Cardiff wingers who went north.
In total he had played 171 games for Cardiff scoring 97 tries, including four in one match against Gloucester in 1966-67. For Wales he had scored seven tries in just nine caps and a total of 12 in his 13 appearances in the famous red jersey.
Amazingly he played for Salford for 14 years, appearing 498 times and scoring 297 tries, both records unlikely to be beaten. He was also capped for Wales and Great Britain in rugby league.
Richards was a feared attacker due to his thrilling combination of pace, acceleration, an amazing sidestepping ability plus a jink, shimmy and swerve.
As Gerald Davies’ comments might suggest, the wing might be considered under-rated upon reflection compared to some of his former team-mates, having not featured in the golden days of the seventies. But his stature as one of the Arms Park’s greats was rightly recognised when the Rhondda boy was inducted into the Cardiff Rugby Hall of Fame in 2001 - a club which is cemented in his heart.
He said: “I lived in the Rhondda and the club [Cardiff] was on a pedestal there. I never dared to think about playing for them and it was a difficult decision to leave in 1969. Who knows what I would have gone on to achieve had I stayed, but I count myself fortunate to have played six years for Cardiff and been capped by Wales and the Lions followed by 14 happy years at Salford. I have no regrets.”