Ex-Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half Phil Bennett has died at the age of 73, his former club Scarlets have announced.
Bennett, affectionately known as ‘Benny’, played 413 times for Llanelli RFC 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.
Regarded as one of Wales’ greatest ever players, he won 29 caps for his country between 1969 and 1978, winning two Five Nations Grand Slams and three Triple Crowns. Bennett was renowned for wearing the number 10 shirt and captained the Lions on their 1977 tour of New Zealand.
In a statement confirming the sad news of Bennett’s passing, Scarlets described him as “one of the all-time legends of the game and widely regarded as the greatest player to wear the Scarlets jersey”.
Bennett’s former Scarlets captain and Wales and Lions team-mate Delme Thomas paid tribute to the rugby legend, saying: “He was the best fly-half I have ever seen on a rugby field.”
Scarlets chairman Simon Muderack added: “We are devastated by this news. 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.”
After retiring from rugby, Bennett became an OBE in 1979 and was later inducted to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2005.