Former Wales rugby star Matthew J Watkins is laid to rest after losing cancer battle at live-streamed funeral attended only by ten family members because of strict lockdown rules
- Matthew J Watkins was laid to rest at a service at Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff
- The star was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2013 and died this month
- Funeral streamed live online to enable his loved ones to pay their final respects
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Tributes have poured in for the former Welsh rugby star Matthew J Watkins who was laid to rest today following a long battle with pelvic cancer.
Family and friends of Watkins, 41, who was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2013, paid homage to the ‘special man who lived life to the full’ during an intimate service at Thornhill Crematorium in Cardiff today.
Due to distancing measures imposed by the coronavirus lockdown, only ten members of his family were able to attend the service but his funeral was streamed live online to enable his loved ones and fans to pay their respects.
Residents from the ruby player’s home village of Oakdale lined the streets dressed in rugby gear and waving Welsh flags as the cortege passed by on its way to the star’s final resting place.
The Welsh rugby star Matthew J Watkins was laid to rest today during an intimate service at Thornhill Crematorium in Cardiff
Due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus lockdown only ten members of his family were able to attend the ceremony
The international star, who was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2013, passed away earlier this month
During the service, Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars was played along with I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons and Sia’s Chandelier.
A video featuring visual memories of Watkins was also played to his family to the accompaniment of Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, while the service concluded with Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
The service was conducted by the funeral celebrant Wyn Davies, who read poems from the family and delivered eulogies to the former rugby player.
Honouring Watkins’ achievements both on and off the field, Mr Davies described the star as a man who ‘lived life to the full’ and whose only fear was ‘seeing his loved ones sad or grieving’.
He said: ‘He lived and loved life to the full. What he packed into that life was so valuable and so important.
‘So many good times, good memories and achievements. More than most see in two lifetimes.
‘Matthew was a hard, uncompromising player who was totally committed.
The star’s coffin was driven through his home village of Oakdale before stopping at his final resting place
Family make their way into the crematorium during the intimate service at Thornhill crematorium, Cardiff
Loved ones of the star were seen making their way to the small service which was conducted by the funeral celebrant Wyn Davies
‘He fulfilled his boyhood dream of playing for Wales, but never changed. He was admired by everyone.
‘It’s what you leave in people’s hearts and memories that really matters. Matthew was a truly fantastic human being, a special man. His was a life lived to the full.’
The service also saw Mr Davies pay tribute to the heroic way Watkins battled his cancer and the charity work he did to raise money and awareness.
He continued: ‘His only fear was seeing his loved ones sad or grieving. He was more concerned about their welfare. He always kept a happy and warm manner.
‘He attended any charity event he could and would go into schools to do talks. What an ambassador, what a man.
While the plan had originally been to hold a big commemorative service, this will now be saved for the memorial service later this year
‘He was a really special man who left so many beautiful memories. A lovely man, a lovely life.’
Watkins, who hailed from Pontllanfraith and lived in Oakdale, was married to his childhood sweetheart Stacey who he shares sons Siôr and Tal with.
Funerals during the coronavirus lockdown
-Funerals are restricted to a maximum of ten people
-A safe distance of at least two metres must be maintained between mourners who are in attendance
– Only those who are immediate family should attend the service
-Those displaying symptoms of the coronavirus should not attend
-Family in attendance are advised not to take part in any ritual which may bring them into close contact with the body of the person who has died from or who had symptoms of COVID-19
-Mourners are advised not to touch or come into contact with the coffin
Mr Davies added: ‘He was known by different names, Matthew, Matthew J, Matt, MJ but the word he liked hearing most was dad. He loved his boys unconditionally. He was part of a loving and close-knit family.’
In 2018, Watkins discovered that his cancer had spread to his spine and in January this year revealed it had spread to his head.
The 18-times capped centre passed away on the eve of the Wales’ Six Nations clash with England earlier this month.
Tributes to him poured in from across the rugby world following the tragic news, with former teammates and friends expressing their heartfelt condolences.
While the original plan had been to stage a big commemorative service in his honour, with numbers restricted, that will now be saved for the memorial service later this year.
Fellow Welsh international Alix Popham called on the rugby community to celebrate the life of his former Newport and Scarlets team-mate by watching the funeral online.
Taking to Twitter to honour the star he wrote: ‘So many great memories shared with you MJ, rest in peace my friend.’
The sporting community watched the service online and paid their respects to the star on social media
Meanwhile rugby player Mike Phillips wrote: ‘I wore my @scarletsrugby jersey for MJ’s funeral today. So many happy memories playing alongside Matthew for both Scarlets and Wales.’
And Rugby union player Andrew Coombs added: ‘He was truly one of the greats! Thoughts are with his family today.’
Elsewhere Scarlets Rugby tweeted: ‘A few words from our president Phil Bennett on Matthew J Watkins ”Matthew was an excellent rugby player and, above all, a lovely man. There was a modesty and humility about him and a concern for others.
”’Despite his illness, he did his best to be positive. His love for his family shone through and it was quite inspiring and a privilege to talk to him. We are all there for his wife Stacey and children should they need us. The world has lost a special individual.”’
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