Obituary: Welsh rugby legend David Watkins

David Watkins gestures as he coaches Cardiff Blue Dragons in 1982
David Watkins was inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2000

Dual code rugby legend David Watkins has died. He was 81.

A coal miner's son from Blaina in the Gwent Valleys, Watkins is regarded as one best Welsh fly-halves of all time.

He won 21 caps for Wales at rugby union and toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions before switching to rugby league.

After joining Salford for a club-record £15,000 in 1967, Watkins became the club's record points scorer and played six Tests for Great Britain.

He captained the Wales rugby league team and coached the GB Lions on their tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1977.

Watkins was a fly-half in the classic Welsh mould. Standing only 5ft 6in (1.68m) and weighing in at less than 10-and-a-half-stone (66.7kg), he relied on a lightning turn of pace and clever tactical nous to undo defences.

He came to prominence while still a teenager in 1963, playing four times for Wales and helping his club Newport record a memorable 3-0 win over the All Blacks - the only match the New Zealanders lost on that tour.

Watkins rapidly established himself as the leading stand-off in Britain and was rewarded with a place on the 1966 Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand where he captained the team in two Tests.

On his return to Wales, Watkins was dropped from the national team in favour of Barry John.

However, following defeats against Australia and Scotland, Watkins was re-instated as fly-half and appointed captain for the rest of the season.

But the 34-21 win over England on 15 April 1967 turned out to be his last game of rugby union for Wales as he switched codes in October.

He made a dream start in the 13-man game, scoring a 70-yard try and dropping two goals on his debut for Salford, but his small stature and big transfer fee made him a target for opponents.

Speaking in 2002, Watkins said: "In my first two seasons I broke my nose four times, fractured my ribs and broke my jaw and they were all off-the-ball incidents.

"I remember being pole-axed in a game against Leigh. I got up and asked the ref what he was going to do about it. He said, 'hey, son, you've been paid enough to look after yourself'!"

However, Watkins proved he had the courage and determination to go with his talent, and between August 1972 and April 1974 scored in 92 consecutive matches for Salford.

In all, the Welshman scored 41 tries and kicked 403 goals for the Red Devils and played in six Tests for Great Britain before coaching the side in 1977.

He was appointed an MBE for services to sport, and after retiring as a player was chief executive of the short-lived Cardiff Blue Dragons rugby league franchise.

Watkins always maintained his links with Newport Rugby Club and in 1992 led a consortium that took over the club.

He was later appointed chairman and elected president of the Newport Gwent Dragons when the region - now named Dragons RFC - was set up in 2002.

A passionate supporter of the 13-man code, Watkins was also patron of the Wales Rugby League and inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.