Tributes pour in for British & Irish Lions legend Phil Bennett


Tributes pour in for British & Irish Lions legend Phil Bennett

Tributes have poured in for Wales and British & Irish Lions legend Phil Bennett, who passed away on Sunday aged 73.

Bennett was a cornerstone of the famous 1974 Lions squad that went an entire tour of South Africa unbeaten, and became the second Welshman to captain the side on their 1977 Tour of New Zealand.

Figures from across the game have shared their tributes and memories to celebrate Bennett’s contribution, both on and off the pitch.

Four-time Lions head coach Sir Ian McGeechan played alongside Bennett on both the 1974 and 1977 tours and described watching his friend as a “rare privilege”.

“Even at the time I thought that each outing was a rare privilege, and the passage of time has not dulled my appreciation of his genius,” he wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

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“As we all know from his unforgettable jinking runs for Wales, the Barbarians and the Lions, Benny was above all a superbly instinctive player, but he also had a great rugby brain on him.

“He thought deeply about the game, about how to do things differently, and was also able to articulate complex ideas about how he wanted the game to be played.

“Off the pitch, Phil was a tremendously popular tourist. A real comedian, he had a fantastic sense of humour and his wonderful mimicry of his great pal Bobby Windsor became a standing joke on that tour. He was a great story-teller, at his happiest with a pint in hand, with friends in a bar.”

For Wales, Bennett won 29 caps in a nine-year Test career, which coincided with one of Wales’ greatest-ever periods, as they won three Grand Slams in seven seasons.

And Wales great Jonathan Davies was one of many to be inspired by Bennett.

“I’m so upset to hear the passing of the great Phil Bennett. He was my inspiration as a kid he even invited me to go sprint training with him when I was in school,” he wrote on Instagram.

“He also called @neathrfc to tell them to give me the opportunity of first class rugby.

“He became a great friend and I will miss him greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with Pat his wife and rock and family and friends.”

Current and former players shared their tributes to the great man, including prop Rob Evans, and former centre Tom Shanklin.

Bennett’s final Wales cap saw him lead his side to a 16-7 win against France at the Arms Park, scoring twice to help his side secure their second Grand Slam of the decade.

And figures from around the game, including Chairman of World Rugby Bill Beaumont added to a raft of tributes.

Bennett also made 413 appearances for Llanelli RFC, now better known as Scarlets Rugby, and his former club were one of the first to pay tribute to the Wales legend.

Scarlets chairman Simon Muderack said: “He was an icon of our sport, a rugby superstar, but someone who always remembered his roots. 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.”

Legends of the game from across Europe were also saddened by the news, including former Lions Ronan O’Gara and Brian Moore.

And celebrities and politicians from outside the sport recognised the impact he had on popular culture, including Welsh actor Michael Sheen and First Minister Mark Drakeford.

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