Great Britain and St Helens legend Cliff Watson dies, aged 78

Drew Darbyshire

Photo belongs to St Helens RLFC

Great Britain and St Helens legend Cliff Watson has passed away following a battle with oesophageal cancer.

Watson joined St Helens in 1960 from Dudley Kingswinford Rugby Union Club. He scored 57 tries 373 appearances in the red vee and played in their 1961 and 1966 Challenge Cup final victories.

The prop won 30 caps for Great Britain. He captained his country in the 1968 World Cup and featured in the 1970 tournament.

Watson also won three Lancashire League titles and five County Cups with Saints, before moving to Australian club Cronulla Sutherland ahead of the 1971/72 season. He scored nine tries in 38 games for the club, before hanging up his boots.

Ray French was a close friend of Watson and has paid tribute to him on

He said: “I used to knock around with Cliff and John Warlow and I remember that we were almost in competition on the field with each other with our running and tackling.

“There were shouts of encouragement and some gentle verbal put-downs, for sure. Cliff used to give me a lift to training and to get the coach at Knowsley Road for away games and he was a real character, with a superb sense of humour.

“As a player, he was extremely fit and had great enthusiasm. He was a drayman for Greenall Whitley at one stage and during the [school] summer holidays I used to go with him occasionally on deliveries. He had no problem at all lifting the heaviest barrels above his head. He was terrifically strong, for sure.

“I roomed with him on the World Cup tour in 1968 and I will never forget the day I signed for Widnes. Cliff rolled up at our house to get the coach for Swinton and I said ‘I’m not going with you, I’m playing at Naughton Park this afternoon.’ He didn’t believe me and was quite upset.

“He remained a great friend and I visited Cliff and Barbara in Australia on a number of occasions and was always made welcome.”