Sidesteps boom

The 1960's, 1970's and 1980's were the years of the sidesteps boom. Leading the way were any number of Welsh backline players.

Welsh sidestepping outside-half factory

For reasons not entirely clear, but touched on in early sidesteps, Welsh players were the outstanding sidesteppers in this boom period.

Outside-half during the sidesteps boom, a key position for...

  • launching counter-attacks through broken play
  • taking advantage of weak defence by suddenly switching play
  • using sidesteps to rip holes in ordinary defence

There are many mentions of a Welsh "outside-half factory".

The names (with Wikipedia links) frequently include...

Name Caps Years
Cliff Morgan 29 1951 - 1958 (pre-boom)
Carwyn James 2 1958 - 1958 (pre-boom)
David Watkins 21 1963 - 1967
Barry John 25 1966 - 1972
Phil Bennett 29 1969 - 1978
Jonathan Davies 28 1985 - 1988

All the above players were renowned for their evasive qualities.

Carwyn James

Carwyn said great things - and has a great way of saying them!

  • New to the game?
  • Experienced player?
  • Coach?
  • Administrator?
  • Anyone!

Enjoy this terrific article which features some of the things Carwyn James wrote in his columns for the Guardian newspaper. I love 'em!!!

In his artcle Frank Keating uses a couple of words I had to look up...

"apercu" and "percipience"

David Watkins

In this intersting artcle on BBC Sport, David tells several interesting and amusing anecdotes about his experiences.

They include the Barbarians, his David and Goliath tussle with Colin Meads when the British Lions played the New Zealand All Blacks in 1966 and about going to League.

More Welsh sidestep stars of the boom

Other outstanding, elusive Welsh players....

Name Caps Years
Gerald Davies 46 1966 - 1978
Gareth Edwards 53 1967 - 1978
JPR Williams 55 1969 - 1981
Iuean Evans 72 1987 - 1998

Sidesteps boom - action!

When I Googled "phil larder defence" I found the document "defense_all.doc" at

It records Phil Larder`s views in relation to David Watkins , another star of the sidesteps boom period, who had gone across to League. Larder played against Watkins and had problems containing him.

  • It says Larder expressed the view that something other than man-on-man defence was needed to avoid being torn appart by talented sidesteppers like David Watkins, one of the best ever.

  • Later, Larder is said to have been confident the defensive systems he developed could withstand communal attack but recognised they could be breached by gifted individuals.

Gerald Davies, referring to a club game Llanelli v Irish Wolfhounds says this about D Ken Jones,

...,he scored a try which, for sure footed wizardry, I've yet to see surpassed.
Welsh Rugby Scrapbook, Gerald Davies, 1978 page 21

He goes on to say that D Ken Jones had fanned the flames after Carwyn James had sparked his interest in sidesteps.

Gerald Davies, referring to the Barbarians v All Blacks game, says the Phil Bennett sidesteps that day were similar to ones Bennett produced in almost any game he played at his home ground, Stradey Park.

Welsh Rugby Scrapbook, Gerald Davies, 1978 page 77

He also said Bennett was a magical player to watch and that he hoped many children had seen Bennett because children are great imitators and it would benefit Welsh rugby.

Another interesting article about the 1973 Barbarians game is in the Guardian newspaper - Why this game was the finest ever played

It confirms there was no forward pass - the ref was right there!

Sidesteps boom - lessons!

Gareth Edwards confides he is worried that coaching will be detrimental to the great individual evasion skills his generation possessed.

(It would appear his fears were well founded)

He also says that players without skills like dummies and sidesteps lack options and are easy to defend against.

His opinion is that outstanding individual talents and organisation are neccessary for success and is not convinced that the skill will survive the coaching process.

GARETH An Autobiography, Gareth Edwards, 1978 page 155

Other steppers in the sidesteps boom

Of course there were players of other nationalities - but not nearly as plentiful.

David Duckham was one.

There is plenty to see of Duckham in the Barbarians v All Blacks 1973 game mentioned elsewhere on this site.

His elusive sidestepping style so endeared him to the Welsh that he is reported to be known affectionately in Wales as Dai Duckham (Dai being the Welsh equivalent of David)

Ken Wright deserves mention

The Australia v All Blacks 3rd Test at Eden Park, Aukland in 1978 features on the ABC DVD "Rugby in the 70s".

In that game the third of Greg Cornelsen's 4 tries is scored as a direct result of a Ken Wright sidestep.

Missing out Melrose, Hipwell gets the ball away to Ken Wright at centre who slices through the All Blacks defence with a superb sidestep.

Commentator - "Oh what a sidestep, Ken Wright". DVD player reads 2:6 42:30

Frik Du Preez.

Referring to a game in the Lions tour of South Africa in 1971, Gareth Edwards says that Du Preez was
a tremendous footballer

He reports that although Du Preez was tall and weighed sixteen stones

...he could sidestep and swerve like a six-foot Gerald Davies.

Shortly after, Edwards goes on to say

Sadly my admiration for Du Preez was then shattered in the second test....

- but that's another story.

GARETH An Autobiography, Gareth Edwarsa, 1978 page 76

So there you have it - a small part of the sidesteps boom.

Now get one of your own...