The Wales rugby legend, Phil Bennett, has died aged 73 after a long illness.

The Scarlets announced the news on their website and social media - he had played for the club 410 times over 15 seasons.

"It is with deepest sadness that we announce that our former captain and Scarlets President Phil Bennett has died at the age of 73.

"One of the all-time legends of the game and widely regarded as the greatest player to wear the Scarlets jersey, ‘Benny’ played 413 times for Llanelli RFC from his debut against arch rivals Swansea at the age of 18 to his final appearance at his beloved Stradey Park in 1981.

"A player with stardust in his boots, he possessed a sidestep that would mesmerise defenders — his jinking run to spark ‘the greatest try ever scored’ for the Barbarians against New Zealand in Cardiff in 1973 will live long in rugby folklore."

The club's executive chairman Simon Muderack said: “As a club, region and community, we are devastated by this news.”

“Wherever the Scarlets travel around the world, people mention the name Phil Bennett.

“He was an icon of our sport, a rugby superstar, but someone who always remembered his roots. There was no finer ambassador of Scarlets Rugby than Phil, a player respected across the rugby world, both during his career and long after he finished playing.

“Phil was a hero and friend to so many people, not only in Llanelli and West Wales, but throughout the game and I am sure a lot of Scarlets supporters will have their own particular stories of the times they met and chatted to ‘Benny’.

Regarded as one of Welsh rugby’s finest players, Mr Bennett, affectionately known as ‘Benny’, was born in the Carmarthenshire village of Felinfoel on October 24, 1948.

Bennett’s father Les worked in the local steelworks until he suffered an industrial accident. His mother Mary worked at a car-pressing plant to make ends meet as the young Bennett and step-brother Oliver heard Les recite tales of his beloved Llanelli RFC.

Bennett was often sickly as a child and his father was told on one hospital visit that his diminutive son would “never have the physique to play rugby”.

So football seemed a better option and Bennett’s performances for Llanelli Schoolboys drew admiring glances from several clubs and a contract offer from Swansea Town.

However, Bennett chose to play rugby with his friends at Felinfoel Youth and soon developed under the coaching genius of Carwyn James at Llanelli.

Bennett made his Wales debut in March 1969 against France in Paris, replacing the injured Gerald Davies to become the first Welsh substitute in international rugby.

He eventually won 29 caps for his country until 1978 and featured in two Five Nations Grand Slam-winning teams.

One of his most iconic achievements came in 1972, when he helped Llanelli defeat the All Blacks 9-3. 

The National Wales: Phil Bennett playing for Wales. Photo: PAPhil Bennett playing for Wales. Photo: PA

In April, a statue of Mr Bennett was unveiled in his home of Felinfoel in Carmarthenshire. 

Felinfoel Rugby Club secretary Clive Richards had come up with the idea of a sculpture in his honour, and said: "He has lived in the village his whole life, he epitomises the whole village and he would do anything for the village." 

At the time, the former Wales centre Tom Shanklin remarked the statue should have been engraved in gold rather than wood. 

Mr Bennett is survived by his wife and two sons. 

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