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Former Wigan player David Willicombe passes away at 72

Former Wales Rugby League international David Willicombe has passed away aged 72 after a short illness.

The youngest member of Wales’ 1975 Rugby League World Championship side, where he starred in the famous “Battle of Brisbane” match where Wales beat England 12-7. This was just one of his 13 Welsh caps, six of which were won in that 1975 tournament. He also played in three Tests for Great Britain and went on the 1974 tour to Australia and New Zealand, featuring in the 20-0 win over the Kiwis in Auckland. He scored three full international tries for Wales and two for Great Britain.

Born in Hannah Street, Butetown, in 1951, his family later moved across Cardiff to Fairwater. He learned his rugby union at St Illtyd’s High School in Rumney Cardiff, turning out for Cardiff Schools, then open age at the Cardiff International Atheltic Club (CIACS).

He turned professional with Halifax as an 18-year-old, finding himself playing alongside fellow Tiger Bay imports, Terry Michael and Johnny Freeman. He won the first two of his Welsh caps in 1970 while he was at Halifax and the rest when with Wigan whom he joined in 1974, scoring a hat-trick of tries on his debut. He won the Lancashire Cup with Wigan and was ranked as one of the best centres in the world at either code. He also played more representative rugby league for “Other Nationalities” in the County Championship.

Whilst playing rugby, he was also an electrician and worked for a few different firms in Halifax and Wigan. After finishing playing he ran his first pub in Wigan for two years, before running the Black Bull in Mawdesley, Lancashire for 10 years. He then returned to engineering in Manchester for 21 years at the same company before retiring in 2015.

David leaves a widow, Yvonne, children and grandchildren.

Wales Rugby League chairman Brian Juliff said: “Such desperately sad news to hear of the passing of David Willicombe who was an outstanding centre for CIACS rugby union, Great Britain and Wales Rugby League, Halifax and Wigan. His contributions to the clubs and the game in general will never be forgotten. Sincere condolences to David’s family and friends from all here at Wales Rugby League.”

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