The ex-Newport, Wales, British & Irish Lions, Salford, Wales RL and Great Britain RL outside half died on Sunday, 3 September at the age of 81. Since then, players from both the 15-a-side and 13-a-side game have been fulsome in their praise for the mercurial man from Blaina.
“He represented the potential and possibilities of the game for all delicate and subtle rugby players. He could run at speed, sidestep and avoid all those much bigger players who may have wished him hard,” said Davies.
“He wasn’t the biggest of men at 5ft 6in tall and weighing less than 11 stone, but he was very light on his feet and had marvelous footwork. We don’t see many players like him in the modern game, someone who can provide the delicate touches that get people off their feet.”
Watkins returned to win the last three of his 21 caps in the 1967 Five Nations Championship. He had become a global start on the 1966 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand, playing in all six Tests and captaining the Lions in two Test against the All Blacks.
But the Welsh selectors dropped him for the games against Australia and Scotland in favour of Barry John. It was in the defeat to the Wallabies – the Lions had beaten them twice six months earlier, the second time 31-0 in Brisbane with Watkins pulling the strings in Sydney – that both John and Davies made their senior Wales debuts.
Watkins was then recalled to lead the side against Ireland, France and England before head ‘North’ to join Salford RLFC in October 1967 for a fee of £15,000.
“Nobody was quite sure if David had the right frame to play rugby league because there was always more bodily contact up North,” added Davies.
“But he coped superbly with everything that was thrown at him. He was much cleverer on the field than most people thought. He always had the touches, speed, footwork and imagination to play the game he wanted.
“He was the master at playing sevens rugby and when the fans knew David Watkins was playing, they all wanted to turn up to watch him.
“It is very sad that the game has lost him and my thoughts at this time, along with everyone connected to Welsh rugby, are with his family and friends.”