Neath RFC is saddened to hear of the passing of former hooker Brian Rees.
From a well-known Neath family and a product of Neath Grammar School, Brian Rees followed Tony Lewis, Brian Thomas and his great friend Dennis Gethin to Cambridge University where his “no holds barred” Neath approach soon singled him out.
He won four Blues and was captain in his final year, brother Geoff later emulating him. During his time at Cambridge, Brian played against both New Zealand and Australia and toured Brazil and Argentine where he returned in 1968 as part of the Wales touring party alongside Neath’s Glen Ball, Walter Williams and Dave Morris.
In 1967, Brian won three caps against Scotland, Ireland and France and would have joined the Wales tour to New Zealand in 1969 had it not been for medical examinations at St. Bart’s Hospital where he was a Hospitals Cup winner in 1969 and 1970 and played for Middlesex.
Whilst a student, Brian often under-studied Neath great Morlais Williams and turned out for Neath Athletic but his later club rugby was played at Cardiff and London Welsh.
Professionally, he was a leading surgeon at the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and pioneered laser technology. He became High Sheriff of South Glamorgan in 2008 and chaired the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust.
His former London Welsh and Wales colleague John Taylor paid an excellent tribute to Brian on the WRU website saying :-
“Brian was very proud of his Neath heritage and there was certainly a touch of the Neath about him on the field. Neath were revered, hated and admired in equal measure for the hard edge they brought to their rugby and Brian was ferocious on the field,” said Taylor.
“On the field he could be a menace, yet off it he was charming, witty and loads of fun. Never afraid to get stuck in, he once pleaded his innocence when faced with a biting charge by claiming he had lost all his front teeth and therefore couldn’t inflict any damage.
“When he joined London Welsh he was completing his studies to become a doctor in London. He picked a hospital in Luton to do his first internship and that left us all flummoxed.
“When we asked him why he wanted to go so far out, and pointed out it would make life very difficult for him to get to training at Old Deer Park, he revealed his reasoning. He wanted to be a surgeon, the M1 had not long opened, which was close to Luton and he reckoned there would be lots of crashes that would provide him with plenty of chances to get into theatre. He went on to become an eminent surgeon, rising to the top of his profession.”
Those tales typified Brian who was a real livewire on and off the field – the original rugby-playing medical man. He rarely missed a Neath game at Cardiff where he always enjoyed a Neath win more than most and was a keen member of the Neath Former Players – John Taylor summed him up perfectly when he aid, “He was a great man to have around, both on and off the pitch.”
Neath RFC’s condolences are extended to Brian’s family, friends and colleagues. MP