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Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Friday, 2 November 2007

Stradey set for emotional night

Former Wales, Lions and Llanelli centre Ray Gravell
Friends and former team-mates say Gravell was one of a kind

Former Wales captain Jonathan Davies says Friday's game between the Scarlets and Leeds will be an emotional affair after the death of Ray Gravell.

BBC Sport pundit Davies feels that the game at Stradey Park, where 'Grav' was much loved, will be difficult for supporters and players alike.

A minute's applause is planned before the match and players are also expected to wear black armbands.

"It's going to be a very, very difficult place to go," said Davies.

"I'm sure that it's going to be very difficult for the Llanelli players and supporters.

"If one thing, Llanelli can put on a great rugby performance for Gravs, but the one thing you've got to remember is it's only a game."

Tributes from the world of rugby have been paid to former Wales centre Gravell, who died on Wednesday aged 56 while on holiday in Spain.

Wales great Gareth Edwards said: "It's a very sad day but when I look back and think of Ray Gravell I'll remember the joy and immense pleasure he gave us."

Gravell's former Wales and Llanelli team-mate JJ Williams added: "He was certainly one of the best centres I played with. Around 1975-76 no one could handle him.

"He deserves all the accolades he'll get over the next few days."

Gravell won 23 caps for his country and made the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa, playing in all four Tests.


Former Wales coach John Dawes, who gave Gravell his Wales debut in 1975 against France, said he was a great man and a credit to his country.

"His love of Wales was second to none," said Dawes. "He was so proud to be a Welshman.

"He was renowned as a crash-ball merchant but in fact his handling ability was far better than the average centre.

"Many times he proved it and he was an unselfish player. He was great to be with.

"He was a catalyst for all the good things you expect from a team player. If you're talking about the colours of the rainbow, he brought six of them.

"He was just magical and we will miss him so very, very much."

Williams played with Gravell on his debut as Wales secured a fine 25-10 in Paris, and the former winger recalled how his Llanelli team-mate was overwhelmed by nerves before the big match.

"On the Thursday night about three o'clock in the morning there was a kafuffle in the room," recalls Williams.

"I woke up and Grav was packed to go home - 'I can't take the pressure JJ, I'm not cut out for international rugby. I'm going home'," he said.

His personality and character are once in a generation characteristics

Former Wales captain Gareth Davies

"If I hadn't told him to jump back into bed his career would have been over before it had started. Of course, he did get back into bed and the rest is history.

"So whenever I met him I told him he owed a lot to me! But that was his strength - he was a bag of nerves but whenever he stepped onto the field he exploded.

"He wasn't just a crash-ball player, he was a good footballer, he had good hands and he could pass the ball to me."

Former Wales coach Steve Hansen called Gravell a legend.

"I feel sad for his lovely wife and his young children," said Hansen.

"Though they may not have the opportunity to grow old with him, they can put their heads down on their pillows at night knowing their Husband/Dad was loved and respected by many the world over. He is a legend."

Former Wales fly-half Gareth Davies said Gravell's unique personality and kindness outshone his many achievements on the rugby field.

"People talk about his rugby - there have obviously been great rugby players and there will always be - but I think it's his personality that people should really remember," said Davies, who toured with Gravell on the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa.

"That's not demeaning his rugby ability at all because he was a very, very good player. But his personality and character are once in a generation characteristics.

"He was such an affectionate and loving individual. He cared for everybody and in particular his wife and two young daughters.

"The unfortunate illness he had earlier this year made it apparent to him what a loved individual he was."

Former Wales captain Edwards added: "He was a gregarious person, wonderful to be with and always wanted to be part of the whole occasion.

"I remember him going around all his team-mates asking if they were OK. And that's how he was in life. What you had with Ray Gravell was exactly what you saw."

Llanelli Scarlets chief executive Stuart Gallacher said: "It is with great sadness that we have received the news of the sudden passing away of Ray Gravell.

"He was of course a huge figure not only in Llanelli but throughout Wales and where ever rugby football was played.

"He was quite simply a unique person. Following the recent passing away of Sir Tasker Watkins, Welsh rugby has lost another great Welshman.

"Our thoughts are with wife Mari and children Manon and Gwenan at this sad time. He will be missed but not forgotten."

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see also
Wales rugby legend Gravell dies
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Tributes to rugby legend Gravell
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In Pictures: Ray Gravell
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Rugby amputee thanks well-wishers
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Rugby hero's right leg amputated
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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