British and Irish Lions greats have heralded John Dawes for "changing the way rugby was played" as their iconic former captain and coach passed away on Saturday at the age of 80.
Sir Ian McGeechan, Willie John McBride, John Taylor and Peter Wheeler led tributes to Dawes, a man whose achievements with Wales and the Lions are unparalleled. Dawes captained Wales six times across his 22 caps and was ubiquitous throughout his country's golden era when, in 1971, he led them to the first of three Grand Slams in a decade, winning a further two as coach.
Despite his glittering career with Wales, it is with the Lions that Dawes's legacy has been immortalised. The former centre remains the only man to have captained a Lions series win in New Zealand, also in 1971, and he went on to coach the touring side's narrow series defeat by the All Blacks in 1977.
McGeechan's lasting impression of Dawes, however, came in the Welshman's final year as a player when he captained the Barbarians to another win against the All Blacks. During that famous match at Cardiff Arms Park, it was Dawes' arcing run that proved so crucial in Gareth Edwards's fabled try.
"My abiding memory of him - as I'm sure it is for many - is that trademark dummy and pass for the Baa Baas against New Zealand in 1973, which reflected his beautiful timing," McGeechan said. "It looked like nothing but it was integral to what followed.
"As a player and as a coach, John was one of the leading rugby lights of the 1960s and 1970s. I had enormous respect for him. The way he led the Lions in 1971, which was just before my time, was clearly exemplary. When I then arrived on the scene it was obvious how much he was revered by everyone. And it was a privilege to play against that outstanding Welsh team of the 1970s, which was coached by him."
McBride, regarded by many as the greatest ever Lion, remembered his former team-mate as one of the most skilful with whom he played.
"John was my captain in 1971 and he was one of those players who never got flustered," McBride said. "He did an excellent job of keeping the team together. That was one of my great memories, being a part of that 1971 team that beat the All Blacks in a series.
"He was one of the few players, at a time when the whole game was about space, to have the superb ability to virtually take three players out of the game with one pass. He had that skill.
"John Dawes was one of the great players of my era - there is no question of that."
Former Wales flanker Taylor paid tribute to a former team-mate of club and country, a rugby pioneer whose love and dedication to his club, London Welsh, where he both captained and coached, should not be overlooked.
"We probably go back further than anybody," Taylor said. "He joined London Welsh in 1964 and I arrived two years later in 1966. From then on, we were master and pupil. I was vice-captain under him in the days where the captain was the coach as well. We were hand in glove from then on.
"He made London Welsh into what it was. His vision and pioneering work transformed the way rugby was played. I don't think a lot of people realise or appreciate that. What basically happened when he arrived in London was that London Welsh had a very small side full of schoolteachers - so they were relatively bright - but they could not get the ball. Dawes, a terrific thinker, devised this game-plan which was basically that we wouldn't give the ball back until we had scored.
"He was one of those players, by his own admission, who would have liked a yard or two of pace, but his huge ability was to make space and make room for others. Everybody will tell you that he was the man you wanted to play with, especially if you were a back. And he was a fantastic captain."
Wheeler, the former Leicester, England and Lions hooker who was coached by Dawes on the 1977 tour, remembers the Welshman as "the glue that bound all of his great sides together".
"We did not win the 1977 series but we won one Test and the other three were extremely narrow losses, with one score in them," Wheeler said. "We played 26 matches on that tour and won 20. Bringing a Lions tour together as captain or coach is a tough task that requires a lot of skill. And he did it more than once.
"He was a clever, sharp man who was good at bringing people together and treating them fairly"
Dawes' first club Newbridge RFC announced that he had passed away on Friday morning "after a period of ill health".