Raymond William Robert "Ray" Gravell (12 September 1951 – 31 October 2007) was a Welsh rugby union player who earned 23 caps for Wales as a centre.
Early life and education
Born in Mynydd-y-garreg, near Kidwelly in rural Carmarthenshire, Gravell was educated at Burry Port Secondary Modern School and Carmarthen Grammar School.
He first played for Llanelli RFC in 1970, going on to captain the club for two seasons from 1980 to 1982. He made his first appearance for Wales against France in 1975 and played in two Grand Slam winning sides, usually as a centre but sometimes as a winger, and also played in all four tests on the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1980.
Often epitomising the hard edge of rugby, Gravell was the classic crash ball centre, thriving on the physical contact of the sport. He is often cited as the source for the much repeated rugby phrase, "get your first tackle in early, even if it's late."
He announced his retirement from international rugby in 1982, and played his last match for Llanelli in 1985. He was President of Llanelli RFC until his death.
Broadcasting and acting career
In 1985, he joined the BBC taking the leading role in Bonner, a BBC Cymru film for the Welsh Language broadcaster S4C. He appeared in the BBC TV movie Filipina Dreamgirls, and this led to a role in the 1992 Louis Malle film Damage as the chauffeur of the character played by Jeremy Irons.
Since then, he presented regular chat and entertainment shows for both BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru. Up until his death, he was a member of the BBC's Welsh language rugby commentary team where he was an interviewer during Celtic League, Powergen Cup and Heineken Cup matches. He also hosted a breakfast radio show on Radio Cymru in West Wales and co-hosted I'll Show You Mine with Frank Hennessy on Radio Wales.
Ray Gravell was "rugby consultant" and appeared as "Referee No 1" in the film Up n Under.
Later life, diabetes and death
In 2000 he was diagnosed with diabetes and ill-heath plagued his later years. On 18 April 2007, it was announced that he had been readmitted to hospital following an operation to amputate two toes as a result of a diabetes-related infection, and his right leg was amputated below the knee.
Just six months later, however, Gravell passed away, aged just 56. He was taken ill on 31 October 2007 while on a family holiday in Spain, but did not recover and passed away late that night. After his death tributes were led by Welsh Rugby Union chief executive, Roger Lewis, who said "We are all in total shock because Ray was so full of life even through the difficult health problems he suffered recently. We will miss him as a rugby legend but more importantly, we will miss Ray as a great friend and a fine, family man."
Gravell and his wife Mari lived in Mynydd-y-garreg near Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, with their two young daughters, Gwennan and Manon, on a street named after him, Heol Ray Gravell (Ray Gravell Road).