Rugby star Cliff Morgan dies at 83

Morgan celebrates a London Welsh victory in 1998. Picture: Getty Images
Morgan celebrates a London Welsh victory in 1998. Picture: Getty Images
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TRIBUTES have been paid to the celebrated former rugby player and broadcaster Cliff Morgan, who has died aged 83.

The stalwart of the Welsh game, described as “one of rugby’s greats”, enjoyed a long and illustrious career with the BBC and provided the commentary for arguably the most famous try in rugby history, when Gareth Edwards scored for the Barbarians against New Zealand 40 years ago.

Morgan, who had a life-threatening stroke at the age of 42, had been suffering from cancer of the vocal cords and had his larynx removed, which limited his ability to speak.

He was inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame four years ago, and honoured with an OBE and a CVO.

Leading figures from the world of sport were among those to pay tribute to Morgan, a former Wales and British and Irish Lions stand-off, who won 29 caps for his country.

Commentator Mark Pougatch said: “To work in the same room as Cliff Morgan was to know you were working in the right place alongside the very best.”

Dennis Gethin, president of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), said: “I have lost a friend and we have all lost one of rugby’s greats, who was also a true gentleman. His exploits as a player for Cardiff, Wales, the Barbarians and the British and Irish Lions are legendary but he also achieved so much off the field of play.

“As a broadcaster, he became one of the best known faces and voices of radio and television in the UK and as a producer and editorial executive, he reached the top of his profession. Despite all that success, he remained a true gentleman throughout his life and always remained a true son of the Rhondda.”

Roger Lewis, group chief executive of the WRU, said: “His face was known to millions because of his successful career and perhaps that famous voice of his will live on forever, particularly when we recall his magnificent commentary of the Gareth Edwards try against New Zealand for the Barbarians in 1973.”

That try at Cardiff Arms Park has entered sporting history, thanks in large part to Morgan’s exultant commentary, which climaxed with the words: “What a score!”

Morgan, who grew up in a mining family in south Wales, enjoyed a varied broadcasting career, including a stint on Question of Sport. He was also head of BBC outside broadcasts and a regular voice on BBC radio.

Speaking last year about the changes in rugby in his lifetime, he said: “Everybody is so much bigger, stronger and fitter now. We trained twice a week in the evening, then went off for a pint of beer and a kipper, warmed up over an electric fire.”

The BBC, which aired a tribute programme to Morgan on Five Live Sport, hailed his contribution to sports broadcasting.

Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said: “Cliff Morgan was not only a superstar in rugby union, but also a pioneer in sports broadcasting and an inspiration to so many of the great voices of BBC Sport.

“He was a scholar and a wordsmith, who had a wonderful understanding of the use of language in broadcasting. His commentary of the 1973 Barbarians match against the All Blacks, and in particular Gareth Edwards’ famous try, was sublime in its simplicity and will be remembered for many years to come.”