Obituary John Maclean

The following obituary was written by Rob Cole, initially for the Welsh Rugby Union website.

John Maclean, the former Llanelli coach, chairman and WRU General Committee member, has died at the age of 86.

A leading businessman in the steel industry in West Glamorgan, he acted as the county’s High Sheriff in 1995. At his death on Sunday, 20th August, two days after his 86th birthday, he was President of Hendy RFC, senior Life President of Pontarddulais Cricket Club and President of the Pontarddualis Town Band.

Born in Swansea, he was educated at Blundell’s School where he played in both the 1st XV and the 1st XI. He played at outside half for Swansea before turning his hand to coaching, firstly at Swansea Uplands RFC (from the late '60s into the early '70s), then at Hendy and then Llanelli.

Under his guidance, Hendy became one of the strongest second-class clubs in Wales, a team that every first-class team hated to draw in the Schweppes Cup. His love affair with the cup continued when he took over as coach at Llanelli at the start of the 1978/79 season, steering the Scarlets to three successive semi-finals.

He was in charge of Llanelli for 213 games between 1978 and the end of the 1981/82 season, when he stood down and took up a seat on the club’s committee. He eventually became the Llanelli chairman between 1991-94.

He had Phil Bennett, Derek Quinnell and Ray Gravell as his captains at the Scarlets and had the honour of preparing the team that gave the 1980 touring All Blacks a big run of their money in an epic 16-10 victory for the tourists at Stradey Park.

One of the greatest legacies from his time at Llanelli was the writing of a document that encapsulated the playing philosophy of the great club. He would later try to do the same thing at the WRU while serving on the committee as one of the five National Representatives between 1989-1993, but nothing came of it.

“The philosophy of Llanelli RFC will be to try and provide entertainment and excitement for its supporters by playing effective and adventurous winning rugby in a style which will be enjoyable for both player and spectator,” he wrote in his policy statement.

“Hopefully, it will be rugby football of quality which incorporates the belief that such an approach involves the taking of justifiable risks, especially in running the ball from our own line and behind.”

It was a doctrine that found an instant disciple in Gareth Jenkins, who followed him as coach, and fitted perfectly into the winning style and philosophy that carried the Scarlets to Guinness PRO12 glory under Wayne Pivac last season.

He was chairman of current Wales’ forwards coach Robin McBryde’s testimonial committee and was thrilled to be the Llanelli chairman when the club so famously beat the world champion Australians at Stradey Park in 1992.

John Duart Willard Maclean was born on 18 August, 1931 and died on 20 August, 2017. The WRU would like to pass on its condolences to his wife, Ann, and the rest of his family and friends.