His many achievements in the game included the distinction of playing in three different positions against the 1947-48 Wallabies on their tour of Europe - and finishing on the winning side each time. He was at full-back for Wales, at centre for the Barbarians and his favourite fly-half position for Cardiff. This unique hat-trick marked him out as a player of considerable ability and was further enhanced when he was again wearing the full-back shirt in three tests for the British Isles against New Zealand in 1950.
Fly-half, however, was where he was undoubtedly most effective. He was labelled, perhaps misleadingly, 'Billy the Kick', for his tactical prowess with the boot but he always claimed that he preferred to run with the ball. The record books bear him out. In 1947-48, when he partnered Haydn Tanner at half-back for Cardiff and had Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews outside him at centre, the club side had its greatest season, scoring a then remarkable 182 tries in 41 games and losing only twice.
He went on to play nearly 150 games for the Blue & Blacks but declined an invitation to captain the side on his return from the Lions' tour in the autumn of 1950. Instead he preferred to hang up his boots and concentrate on a coal mining career.
William Benjamin Cleaver was born in Treorchy in 1921 and from an early age set his sights on a successful career in the industry that meant most to the South Wales valleys. After education at Pentre Grammar School he went to Cardiff University to take a degree in mining. During the war he captained the university rugby team and also turned out for Cardiff in unofficial matches.
"My professional career in the coal mining industry was always as important to me as my sporting ambitions and luckily they seemed to dovetail pretty well," he said. By the time he won selection for the Lions, he was 28 years of age and already manager of North Celynen Colliery in Monmouthshire. The tour meant he had to give up the post but his retirement from rugby allowed him to quickly make up for lost ground.
He eventually became Deputy Director of the South Wales Coalfield and was widely respected in many other fields. He was at various times chairman of a local steam railway club, secretary for the Contemporary Arts Society for Wales, and a notable wine buff.
Billy Cleaver is survived by his wife, son and two daughters.