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Tributes paid to Thomas

Former Wales lock and Neath legend dies aged 72

Last Updated: 09/07/12 2:40pm

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Tributes have been paid to former Wales lock and Neath legend Brian Thomas, who has died at the age of 72 following a long illness.

Thomas won 21 caps for his country during the 1960s and both captained and managed Neath.

A statement on the Neath RFC website read: "It is with regret that we announce that Neath legend Brian Thomas passed away in the early hours of this morning after a long illness.

"We would like to express our deepest sympathy to his family and friends."

Thomas, who could also play prop, won his first cap against England in 1963 and was part of the Wales sides that won the Five Nations in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

His final appearance in the red jersey came against New Zealand in Auckland in 1969.

He also won three rugby union Blues while at Cambridge University.

Key figure

After his playing days were over he was credited as being the key figure behind Neath's dominance of Welsh club rugby during the late '80s and early '90s, having taken on the role of team manager in 1981.

The Welsh All Blacks also put in competitive displays against the touring New Zealand, Australia and South Africa national sides during his time in charge.

Tributes have been paid to Thomas, with Neath MP Peter Hain writing on Twitter: "Very sad death of great Neath rugby giant Brian Thomas after long illness. Sympathies to Brian's family."

Former Ospreys coach Sean Holley added: "Really sad to hear about the passing of Neath legend Brian Thomas. He was an inspiration to many. Thoughts go out to his family."

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