|Place Of Birth||Morriston|
Will Joseph was one of the forwards who were the backbone of the early triumphs of the first Golden Era. A tall, hansome man, well over six feet and around thirteen stones, he was the outstanding Swansea forward in an outstanding pack in the early part of the twentieth century. The Swansea club were invincible in 1904-05 and the pack included several internationals.
In the first Golden Era, forwards were picked for their all-round abilities with an emphasis on scrummaging as there was little specialisation and scrum ball, in a period before defensive wing forwards, was the crucial possession. Joseph was noted for his brilliant work in the tight scrums, but, because of his height, he was also very good at the lineout (not that forwards got too far off the ground in those days!). Another essential forward skill was dribbling and Joseph was very adept at it. He could also tackle with deadly certainty.
Joseph was 23 when he made his first appearance for Wales, against England at Blackheath in 1902. He had only played a couple of seasons' first-class rugby for Swansea, following experience with Morriston. In the stern struggle Joseph quickly made his mark and was also outstanding in the following game against the 1901 Triple Crown holders, Scotland. He was only to lose his place once - through injury - until after the debacle agaist the South Africans in 1906 - a measure of his tremendous fitness and form. His physique and power stemmed from the fact that he was a tin-plate worker, which was a hard, demanding job before automation.
When the All Blacks arrived in the autumn of 1905, Joseph lined up against them three times within a fortnight. For Wales, he stood staunchly firm and rugged in the titanic forward struggle; for Glamorgan, he led the 'under-strength' county side with fire and purpose, even taking the penalty attempts; and for Swansea, his physical presence and superb tackling almost brought the club a famous victory.
Tragically, the 1906 Springboks never played Swansea for they might have been beaten by such a strong side, but Joseph played twice against them. First for Glamorgan when he scored the home side's try in a narrow defeat by a badly shaken Springboks and, secondly, for Wales when, although he personally played with credit, the pack fell to pieces. The cry went up for 'old' heads to roll and Will Joseph at 28 1/2 was apparently past it. He was dropped and faded out of first-class rugby soon afterwards.
(Text from: "A Century Of Welsh Rugby Players" by courtesy: Wayne Thomas).
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