Former Saints prop Cliff Watson dies aged 78

Great Britain's 19 players who went  to Australia and New Zealand in 1968 in cluding Cliff Watson., back row, fourth left next to Ray French
Great Britain's 19 players who went to Australia and New Zealand in 1968 in cluding Cliff Watson., back row, fourth left next to Ray French
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Former St Helens and Great Britain prop forward Cliff Watson has died at his home on the outskirts of Sydney at the age of 78.

Watson, who had been battling cancer for several years, was born in London and was playing rugby union in the midlands for Dudley Kingswinford when he responded to an advertisement placed by St Helens in the Sporting Chronicle for “top-class rugby union forwards”.

He signed for Saints in 1960 and went on to play 373 matches, including their Challenge Cup final victories in 1961 and 1966.

Watson won 30 caps for Great Britain from 1963-71 including the 1968 and 1970 World Cups, and captained his country in 1968.

He also made a big impression in Australia after making a pioneering move with another St Helens favourite, Tommy Bishop, in 1971.

He played a leading role in Cronulla’s run to the 1973 Grand Final and went on to coach Wollongong.

“Cliff’s time at the Sharks was relatively short compared to the rest of his career but his impact and influence on the club is revered to this day,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.

“He led from the front to take the club to its first Grand Final, in 1973.

“He was one of the greatest front-rowers for Great Britain ever and left an incredible mark on Cronulla as well as the game in Australia.”

The Sharks will honour the memory of Watson at their home game against Parramatta on Saturday night, with a minute’s silence before kick-off and the NRL team to wear armbands.