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Former Wales centre Matthew J Watkins dies aged 41

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

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Matthew Watkins has died aged 41 (David Jones/PA)

Matthew Watkins has died aged 41 (David Jones/PA)

Matthew Watkins has died aged 41 (David Jones/PA)

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

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

One of his former clubs, Dragons, paid tribute to Watkins in a statement on their website which read: “Everyone at Dragons Rugby is deeply saddened at the passing of our former player Matthew J Watkins.

“Matthew will be missed by so many and our sincere condolences go out to Matthew’s wife Stacey, his sons Sior and Tal, family and friends.”

Wales players will wear black armbands for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash with England at Twickenham.

The Welsh Rugby Union wrote on Twitter: “We are deeply saddened by the news that former Wales international Matthew J Watkins has passed away.

“The squad will today wear black armbands to show their respects. All our thoughts are with MJ’s family and friends. Cysga’n dawel (rest in peace) MJ.”

Former dual-code Wales international Jonathan Davies paid tribute to Watkins on social media.

Davies wrote on Twitter: “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.”

International rugby referee Nigel Owens also paid tribute.

“Had the pleasure of his company on and off the field on a few occasions,” Owens tweeted. “A wonderful person. God bless.”

PA