Trevor James - former Blues and Pembroke County RFC Coach has died

Pictured are the Pembroke County squad who beat Japan at Fishguard Road in 1983. Trevor James is seated in the middle of the front row. 

Successful Haverfordwest and Pembroke County Coach Trevor James who also worked for the WRU in several positions has died, writes Gordon Thomas.

Trevor hailed from Honeyborough, Neyland and was part of the James All Black dynasty. The family network included businessman Mike James, who became chairman of The Ospreys, outside half Chris, a distinguished Dyfed Powys Detective and Russel, a tough no nonsense flanker.

His wife, Peggy, also a teacher was an excellent hockey player and instrumental for her background support in his early coaching career.

He leaves two daughters, Catherine and Ruth. Catherine is an international finance high flyer and ex Independent Non Executive Director of the Welsh Rugby Union.

The former Wales Under 21 coach joined the WRU as a development officer, eventually becoming its assistant technical director.

He began to work with the Wales squad, being placed in charge of administration during Kevin Bowring's period as coach. He was the manager of the Welsh side that featured the famous Scott Gibbs try at Wembley in 1999.

He also assisted New Zealander Graham Henry who took charge of Wales from 1998-2002 before his last involvement with the Wales team was during the 2002 tour of South Africa. The WRU's decision to appoint a paid, full time manager in Alan Phillips, who had been doing the job on a parttime basis, reduced his role.

?He studied at Trinity College, Carmarthen before starting a career in teaching as an art and crafts teacher at Milford Haven Central Secondary School for more than 20 years.

?He was a gifted all round sportsman and also played cricket for Neyland as an opening batsman.

During his amateur playing days, he was a formidable, mobile prop for Neyland and Haverfordwest in the 1960s early 70s, he also turned out for Swansea RFC.

James was part of the Haverfordwest team that secured Pembrokeshire League title for the first time in the club’s history under skipper Anthony Lawrence in the mid-70s.

However, after his playing days he made a name for himself as innovative coach as he cultivated his early coaching skills with Haverfordwest youth. The squad contained  a young Wales & British Lion, Peter Morgan and utility three-quarter Geraint John who later starred for Cardiff & Bridgend.

James guided Haverfordwest during their golden period of successive League titles and Knockout Cup successes in late 70s early 80s. He also coached the Blues who toured Romania in 1980. He will be fondly remembered for his innovation of encouraging players to train to music – a completely unorthodox technique.

In 1979, The Blues came within a whisker of a national sensation by narrowly failing to defeat the mighty Schweppes Welsh Cup holders, Bridgend at Fishguard Road. The result elevated James to prominence and paved the way for his stewardship of the County side during a golden era. Bridgend went on to defeat Pontypridd 18-12 in the final at the National Stadium. Their squad included Wales & British Lions JPR Williams and Steve Fenwick, also Welsh internationals Gerald and Gareth Williams.

James also took on tough role as head coach of the Pembroke County squad where he guided his teams to winning the Welsh Counties Cup on at least two occasions.

In his formative years, James drew on his art background and free, creative spirit to influence his non-conventional methods. But, ultimately, as his career widened the traditionalists who inhabited the corridors of power in the national game became sceptical about his philosophy. 

He is well remembered for being in charge of the Pembroke County teams which defeated international touring opponents in the mid 1980’s - Japan and USA Eagles during his tenure.

The Pembrokeshire line-up against Japan & the USA contained, among others, Wales fullback, Geraint Bowen and prop, Brian Williams. And the performance of a relatively unheralded region put James on the pathway to bigger things.

He was a fanatical competitor. Ahead of the Japanese game he dug a foot trench for scrummaging training because he thought the Japanese forwards would be so small.

The 28-25 victory against Japan in 1983 catapulted Brian Williams to stardom after he was talent spotted by legendary Neath guru, Brian Thomas. The Llangolman farmer became the lynchpin of the fearsome Gnoll pack, making 25O appearances and securing cult status and international honours as Neath dominated domestic championship and cup competitions for almost a decade.

He was a forwards coach for Llanelli RFC when Gareth Jenkins and Alun Lewis were in charge at Stradey Park, he also had a brief spell at Swansea RFC – before he moved to the WRU and took on various roles in the mid-1990s to 2002.

James was once famously described by the WRU's ex director of rugby, Terry Cobner as being in charge of "putting the nuts & bolts together" was embroiled in the eligibility scandal that occurred during the reign of Graham Henry. He gave evidence at the International Rugby Board inquiry which followed revelations that Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson had played for Wales while ineligible.

Predeceased by his wife Peggy, left to mourn are their daughters Ruth and Catherine and their respective families.

The funeral will take place at Parc Gwyn Crematorium on Wednesday, April 10th at 2.30pm.
RIP Trevor James