Former Wales and British & Irish Lions fly-half Phil Bennett dies aged 73

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions fly-half Phil Bennett has died aged 73, his former side Scarlets announced on Sunday, sending an outpouring of grief for one of the most beloved heroes of the country in sports.

Bennett guided Wales to two Five Nations Grand Slams in the 1970s and played a key role in the Lions’ tour of South Africa in 1974 when he scored the most points as they went unbeaten in four tests.

Having played 413 times for Llanelli RFC, the club said he was “one of the game’s all-time legends and widely regarded as the greatest player to wear the Scarlets shirt”.

“A player with stardust in his boots, he possessed a sidestep that mesmerized defenders,” Scarlets said in a statement.

“His mad dash to trigger ‘the greatest try ever’ for the Barbarians against New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973 will long live in rugby folklore.

“He was capped for Wales aged 20, playing 29 times for his country during a golden era for Welsh rugby when he was part of an imperious team that won two tournaments in the Five Nations Grand Slam and three Triple Crowns.”

Bennett received an OBE in 1979, while World Rugby inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2005. He went on to become a highly respected radio and TV commentator after his retirement.

A statue of Bennett was also unveiled in his home village of Felinfoel in April.

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

“There was no better ambassador for Scarlets Rugby than Phil, a player respected in the world of rugby, both during his career and long after he was done playing.”

Charles P. Patton