King Charles was left stunned by Wales rugby captain’s ‘deplorable act’

As tributes flood in for legendary Wales captain Brian Price, who died at the age of 86, a tale has remerged of how King Charles was said to have been bemused by an incident involving the Welshman that sent shock waves through rugby and beyond.

It was long ago, exactly in 1969, when the great Wales captain Brian Price—the equivalent of Alun Wyn Jones in his day—delivered what became known as the most iconic blow in Five Nations history, taking down Ireland’s Noel Murphy.

Charles was sitting in the stand at Cardiff Arms Park when it appeared right in front of him, younger than his years.

A few months before he was crowned Prince of Wales, the twenty-year-old would have been excused for a wince.

When he first started playing rugby at Gordonstoun School, he remembered that his evil bosses had allegedly placed him in the second row so that “systematic assaults on me in the scrum went unseen.”

Now, here was more evidence of the rough and tumble of the oval-ball game. In front of the royal box early in the match, second-row Price unleashed a right hook which decked flanker Murphy.

It was later said of the Irishman: “He turned towards the grandstand, his head high and dignified, befitting a prince of Irish players, as though imploring the sympathy of the young Prince of Wales seated in the royal enclosure, then crashed to the ground like a felled oak! How the crowd roared!”

Surprisingly, the referee opted not to dismiss Price, prompting the BBC’s presenter and commentator David Coleman to ask: “What do you have to do to be sent off at rugby?”

Brian Price (right) with Delme Thomas (left) and Gareth Edwards (centre) in 1969

The Times thundered: “It was a deplorable act of ruffianism,” adding, more than a shade bizarrely, “it was the depth of bad manners”.

For Murphy it probably felt like more than just a case of bad manners.

Years later, Price—who was never renowned for punching or other violent on-field behavior—accountably acknowledged that there had been a pre-match plot to take aim at Murphy, the master ball-killer and one of the greatest players in Welsh rugby history.

Let’s acknowledge right now that there was a Murphy Plan, he remarked. It was fairly easy. Noel would tackle Gareth Edwards after he picked up the ball from the scrum and moved to the side. Next, we would all start stepping on Noel a little bit.

However, the intended object of Welsh attention wound up taking a blow in front of a royal. “I got the ball back from a lineout and then found some fingers around my eyes,” Price said. “I turned round and lashed out. The referee (the late Doug McMahon of Scotland) looked at me and I was thinking: ‘I’m going. In front of the Prince, I’m going.’ Thankfully, the ref realised it was done in retaliation, warned me and gave Ireland a penalty.”

The new King was never asked for his opinion on the controversy that marked his first visit to the Arms Park. But plenty of others still remember the game that prompted the South Wales Echo to headline its match report “A right royal punch-up”.

It was won 24-11 by Wales, denying Ireland a Triple Crown. Referee McMahon never controlled another international match.

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