Rugby: Ex-Wallabies skipper Ken Catchpole dies at 78

Ken Catchpole was regarded as one of Australia's finest scrumhalves.
Ken Catchpole was regarded as one of Australia's finest scrumhalves.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/THISDAYINSPORT

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Former Wallabies captain Ken Catchpole has died at 78 after a long battle with illness, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) said on Friday (Dec 22).

Catchpole, regarded as one of Australia's finest scrumhalves, captained Australia at 21 in his international debut in 1961 and played 27 Tests.

A stalwart at Sydney club Randwick, his rugby career was cut short when he was 28, when All Blacks enforcer Colin Meads wrenched his leg in a ruck and tore his hamstring off the bone.

"Others have made contributions to techniques in passing, kicking, and running, but as the supreme exponent of all the skills, Catchpole stands beyond rivalry," former All Blacks scrumhalf Chris Laidlaw wrote in his autobiography.

ARU board director Paul McLean said Catchpole commanded respect.

"He'll be fondly remembered as one of our best, and his records will live long at Randwick, New South Wales and the Wallabies," the former Wallabies captain said in a statement.

"Ken had a real aura about him both on and off the field. He might have been small in stature but you knew when Ken was in the room by the respect he commanded."

Catchpole's death continues a sad week for Australian rugby, with 18-Test Wallaby and Queensland hardman Stan Pilecki passing on Wednesday at the age of 70.