Matthew J Watkins: Former Wales rugby international dies aged 41

Tom Gillespie, news reporter

Former Wales rugby union player Matthew J Watkins has died after a long illness at the age of 41.

Watkins, who won 18 caps for Wales as a centre between 2003 and 2006, retired in 2011 and was diagnosed with a rare form of pelvic cancer in 2013.

Newport-based rugby side Dragons, one of Watkins' former clubs, paid tribute to him in a statement.

The club described their former player as a "silky-skilled centre" and wrote: "Everyone at Dragons Rugby is deeply saddened at the passing of our former player Matthew J Watkins."

The statement added: "Matthew's experience, leadership and talent was a great asset to our team before his retirement from the sport in 2011."

Watkins leaves behind his wife Stacey and his two sons Sior and Tal.

The retired rugby player began his professional career at Newport RFC after playing youth rugby with Newbridge and Pontllanfraith.

Former Wales international Jonathan Davies paid tribute to Watkins on Twitter.

He wrote: "RIP Matthew. What a lovely guy who took on cancer with courage and always had a smile on his face. Lived life to the full and was always smiling. Thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends."

Wales flanker Dan Lydiate wrote on Twitter: "Gutted to hear the passing of Mj this morning thoughts are with his family class player and one of rugby's great characters #gonetosoon #ripmate."