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Wales international passes away as tributes paid to ‘a great player and great man’

Former Wales international Max Wiltshire, who formed a formidable second-row partnership with Billy Mainwaring at Aberavon, has passed away, aged 83.

He and Mainwaring teamed up to play for Wales against New Zealand in 1967.

The pair featured in a hard-nosed Welsh pack that also included Neath’s Brian Thomas and Ebbw Vale’s Denzel Williams, with Gareth Edwards and Barry John at half-back, but the All Blacks registered a 13-6 victory en route to completing an unbeaten tour of Britain, France and Canada unbeaten.

Wiltshire won four caps in total, two of which were earned alongside Delme Thomas in 1968.

Read more:A famous Welsh rugby town is in mourning after the passing of a legend

Born in Australia of Welsh parents, he had started his rugby career with spells at Vardre, Skewen and BP Llandarcy before stepping up for a long stint with Aberavon which saw him captain them for two seasons and later coach the club.

He had a conspicuously successful spell with Bridgend as well, helping them to consecutive Western Mail Club Championship titles in 1969-70 and 1970-71.

Wherever he played he was popular, and rated as a player.

“He was unlucky not to make a Lions tour,” said a long-time supporter of Aberavon, Clive Joseph, who contacted Gist Vile with the news.

“His partnership with Billy Mainwaring was outstanding. Billy was the jumper, Max the enforcer, offering Billy protection at the lineouts. Not that Billy, the hardest of men himself, needed protecting, but with Max alongside him he could do his job better.

“Undoubtedly, Max was one of Aberavon’s finest.

“Reporters at the time may not have picked up on it, but players operating in that era knew not to try to take liberties with Max. Nobody messed with him.”

Wiltshire also coached Skewen and BP Llandarcy, before holding the reins at Aberavon.

“Legendary status is reserved for the greatest, but I wouldn’t hesitate in suggesting Max had such a standing at Aberavon,” said Clive Joseph. “He was a great player and a great man. Up until last year he was a regular at the Talbot Athletic Ground. He was loved by older Wizards supporters, in particular.

“They know what he did for the club.”

The bleak news completes an incredibly sad few days in Welsh rugby, with Owain Williams, Paul Jones and Frangcon Owen also passing, while Daniel Wigley, whose club of origin was Llandybie RFC, died in a tragic accident in Vancouver at the age of just 29.

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