Rugby league prodigy, 20, found dead hours after making debut

Archie Bruce, pictured here after his debut with Batley Bulldogs. Image: Batley Bulldogs
Archie Bruce has died at the age of 20. Image: Batley Bulldogs

A 20-year-old rugby league player has been found dead in his hotel room, less than a day after making his professional debut in France.

Batley Bulldogs player Archie Bruce had played for the Betfred Championship side against Toulouse on Saturday night, before his body was discovered the next day.

The RFL Benevolent Fund paid tribute to the young player, saying a Just Giving Page has been set up in his memory.

The club, which plays in rugby league’s second tier in France, is delaying its return to West Yorkshire after the tragedy.

Club chairman Kevin Nicholas said in a statement: “Batley Bulldogs are greatly saddened to announce the passing of their player Archie Bruce who was found in his hotel bedroom early this morning having made his debut against Toulouse the previous evening.

“Archie’s immediate family have been informed.

“Batley Bulldogs, the RFL and the RFL Benevolent Fund will be supporting the family while inquiries by the French authorities continue, with the club squad delaying their return to the UK.

“The Bruce family have requested privacy during this most difficult of times.”

Bruce had recently joined the Bulldogs from amateur club Dewsbury Moor and made his debut off the replacement’s bench in the 46-0 defeat to Toulouse in the south of France.

Devastation over tragic death

In a post on the Batley Bulldogs website, the club said he had been training with the side with a view to the 2020 season.

The message said: “Due to his energy and enthusiasm head coach Matt Diskin handed him a first professional outing, against Toulouse Olympique, yesterday evening.

“Playing the final 30 minutes of the game he made a great impact with darting runs, and his excitement was clear for all to see post match.

“A smart, polite, funny and extremely likeable young man, his death is an absolute tragedy.”

The RFL Benevolent Fund provides relief for players who have been injured whilst playing or training for rugby league.

The online fundraiser was set up to benefit charities which he supported.

With agencies