Former Wales, British and Irish Lions captain Phil Bennett, who lived during the golden age of Welsh rugby in the 1970s, has died at the age of 73, his former club Lanelli Scarlett has announced.
During his career, in the 1970s, the Open Half multiplied selections for the national team (29), winning the Five Nations Tournament three times and playing eight matches for the Lions against Africa South and New Zealand.
“Phil died peacefully at home on Sunday evening with his next of kin. At this incredibly sad time, our thoughts are with his wife Pat, children Steven, James, family and friends,” the Welsh Club said in a statement.
Bennett’s debut in the national team went down in history. At the age of 20, the young “Benny” replaced the injured winger Gerald Davis in a match against France in the 1969 tournament in Columbus. That day, the Welsh will be forced to draw (8-8) but a talented player will win.
With Barry John’s retirement from the 1973 tournament, he won his opening stripes and formed an unforgettable hinge with Gareth Edwards, who led the Welsh to a Grand Slam in 1976. Next year,
Bennett made rugby history through pre-match conversations with his teammates before England hosted Arms Park. “Look at what those bastards did in Wales, they stole our coal, water and steel. They only bought our houses and lived there for two weeks a year. What did they give us? Absolutely nothing. We are being exploited and violated. “Welsh will win 14-9,” he said in the locker room.
That same year, he led the Lions against the All Blacks without preventing them from losing three of their tour victories.
During Bennett’s 1974 tour of the Lions, captain Willie John McBride responded, “What Ian Botham had for cricket (Johan), Cruyff for football, (Nice) for tennis, for rugby.” He had magic, an indescribable quality. He had the courage to try rare gestures and lift the audience from their seats, “he added.
At the club level, his best result was Lanelli’s 9-3 victory over the All Blacks in 1972. After retiring from the sport in 1981, Phil Bennett became chairman of Scarlett’s, and also worked as a lecturer, television scholar, and radio.
In 2005, he was inducted into the Welshman International Rugby Hall of Fame and joined his former partner Gareth Edward, who was inducted eight years ago.
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