Rugby world in mourning after death of legendary Phil Bennett

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Phil Bennett, pictured here with Gareth Edwards at a reunion party for the 1973 Barbarians in 2003.
Phil Bennett (R) with Gareth Edwards at a reunion party for the 1973 Barbarians in 2003. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The rugby world has been rocked by the sad death of Phil Bennett after the Welsh legend died at age 73 on Monday.

Regarded as one of Wales' greatest ever players, Bennett played 29 times for his country between 1969 and 1978, winning two Five Nations grand slams and three triple crowns.

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The former flyhalf also represented the British and Irish Lions and the Barbarians and played 413 games for club side Llanelli.

His Test debut made the history books as Bennett was rugby's first replacement substituting the injured Gerald Davies at centre for his international bow as a 20-year-old in a 1969 defeat against France in Paris.

With half-back partner Gareth Edwards, regarded as the finest scrum-half to play the game, the pair led Wales to a Grand Slam title in 1977.

“Such sad news from Llanelli this evening with the passing of Phil Bennett, a Welsh rugby legend in every sense and true gentleman,” said a statement from the Welsh Rugby Union.

“Our deepest condolences to Phil’s wife Pat, their family and his many, many friends. Rest in peace Benny.”

Paying tribute to Bennett on their website, Llanelli said in a statement: "A player with stardust in his boots, he possessed a sidestep that would mesmerise defenders.

"His jinking run to spark 'the greatest try ever scored' for the Barbarians against New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973 will live long in rugby folklore."

Rugby world mourns death of legendary Phil Bennett

Affectionately known as 'Benny', Bennett debuted for Llanelli as an 18-year-old and made his final appearance in 1981, captaining the side for six years of his 15-year spell.

Bennett's former club captain and Wales and Lions teammate Delme Thomas said: "He was the best flyhalf I have ever seen on a rugby field."

Llanelli executive chairman Simon Muderack said: "As a club, region and community, we are devastated by this news."

Reflecting on Bennett's key role in Llanelli dominating the domestic scene, including four Welsh Cup triumphs in the 1970s, he continued: "Wherever the Scarlets travel around the world, people mention the name Phil Bennett.

"He was an icon of our sport, a rugby superstar, but someone who always remembered his roots.

Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett, pictured here during the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1974.
Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett during the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 1974. (Image: Allsport via Getty)

"There was no finer ambassador of Scarlets Rugby than Phil, a player respected across the rugby world, both during his career and long after he finished playing.

"Phil was a hero and friend to so many people, not only in Llanelli and West Wales, but throughout the game and I am sure a lot of Scarlets supporters will have their own particular stories of the times they met and chatted to 'Benny'.

"He loved the club and epitomised the values we hold true - humility and pride in our community.

"On behalf of everyone at the Scarlets, we send our heartfelt condolences to Pat, Steven, James and all of Phil's family and friends at this incredibly sad time."

After hanging up his boots, Bennett became an after-dinner speaker, was a pundit for both television and radio and was named president of Llanelli and the Scarlets.

with agencies

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