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Welsh rugby mourns the great Phil Bennett

Ex-Wales and British and Irish Lions flyhalf Phil Bennett has died at the age of 73.

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

Paying tribute to Bennett on their website, the Scarlets, his former club in Llanelli, said in a statement on Sunday: “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.”

Bennett, affectionately known as ‘Benny’, played 413 times for Llanelli, from making his debut as an 18-year-old to 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.”

Scarlets 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.

“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.”

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