Former Wales and Lions legend Phil Bennett dies aged 73

Former Wales and Lions legend Phil Bennett has died at the age of 73.

He passed away at home on Sunday (June 12) surrounded by his close family.

In a statement announcing his death, Bennett's former club Scarlets described him as "the greatest player to wear the Scarlets jersey."

The statement continued: "Our thoughts are with Phil’s wife Pat, sons Steven and James, family and friends at this incredibly sad time."

Bennett came to be affectionately known as 'Benny' Credit: Media Wales

A golden generation of Welsh rugby

Small in stature but giant as a player and personality, Bennett is widely regarded as having defined a golden generation of Welsh rugby.

Born in the village of Felinfoel just outside Llanelli, he stood out as a schoolboy sportsman. Soon that early promise shone through on the senior stage - first with Llanelli, his home town club.

In 1972 he wore the Number 10 jersey against the All Blacks in a famous 9-3 win - a day he always remembered as one of his very best.

"I can't ever forget the support that the crowd gave us that day", Bennett said later in an interview.

"Because we were hanging on by grim death... but they [the crowd] kept the All Blacks out because their tremendous support gave us that encouragement right until the end."

Barbarians' Gareth Edwards (c) passes to the wing. Pictured second from left in background is Phil Bennett. Credit: PA Archive/S&G/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Three months later Bennett found himself at the heart of another memorable moment in rugby history, when his jinking run provided the platform for what many still see as the greatest try ever scored for the Barbarians against New Zealand in Cardiff, finished by Gareth Edwards.

With Wales, Bennett masterminded two Grand Slams, playing his part in some of the era's classic tries.

Bennett celebrates after being named Player of the Year by Rugby World magazine, 1977 Credit: PA Archive

For the Lions, he was a star of the 1974 tour to South Africa, which saw the tourists go unbeaten in 22 games and win the Test series 3-0.

Throughout it all he stayed in his home village of Felinfoel, where he was always sure of a warm welcome. He was always approachable, in spite of his status as a Wales superstar.

Bennett became well known as a pundit in the years that followed his rugby career. Credit: PA

A humble hero

Bennett went out at the top, retiring from rugby after another Grand Slam in 1978 at the age of just 29.

In the years that followed, the man known affectionately as 'Benny' became almost as well known for his sparkling speaking skills as a pundit.

But it'll be as a rare rugby talent - and a humble hero - that he'll be fondly remembered.