Roy Francis inducted into Welsh Sports Hall of Fame

Drew Darbyshire

Photo belongs to Leeds Rhinos

Great Britain and Wales legend Roy Francis became the 136th entrant into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

The citation to induct Francis was read by Carolyn Hitt, the presenter and producer of the recent BBC Wales documentary ‘Rugby’s Codebreakers’. The award was received by Roy’s son, Geoff.

Francis became famous for being the first ever black Great Britain rugby league international, the first black British professional coach in any sport, and for also being overlooked for the 1948 Great Britain Ashes tour to Australia due to the ‘White Australia’ policy at the time (the policy was abolished in 1958).

The former Wales and Great Britain international scored 229 tries in 356 games in his rugby league career.

Born in Cardiff, Francis was raised in Brynmawr where he played rugby union before heading north to Wigan in 1937 as a teenager.

He played 12 games for Wigan before moving to Barrow in 1939.

With the outbreak of the Second World War Francis became a Sergeant in the British Army. He played rugby union for the Army but also made guest appearances playing rugby league for Dewsbury. Throughout the war he continued to represent Eddie Waring’s side featuring in three successive Championship finals as they beat Bradford and Halifax but lost out to Wigan in 1944.

He later played for Warrington before joining Hull FC, where he was appointed coach after playing. Under his leadership, Hull won the Championship in 1956 and 1958. They also made two Cup final appearances in 1959 and 1960.

Francis left Hull for Leeds in 1963 and oversaw their victory in the famous 1968 ‘Watersplash’ Challenge Cup final. He later had a coaching spell in Australia with North Sydney Bears, before another stint at Leeds, then Bradford Northern.

Wales Rugby League chairman Brian Juliff has paid tribute to the late Francis.

Juliff said: “Roy Francis was another iconic Cardiffian who graced the grounds of Rugby League teams across the world.

“He was an outstanding player and innovative coach who broke a lot of boundaries as a black man in professional sport. He was an exceptional athlete and great ambassador for Wales and Rugby League.

“My posthumous congratulations to a wonderful man.”

Francis becomes the tenth rugby league entrant into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame after Billy Boston, Jim Sullivan, Lewis Jones, Gus Risman, David Watkins, Jonathan Davies, Willie Davies, Trevor Foster and Clive Sullivan.