RIP Bill Francis

We were sorry to hear that former Wales captain Bill Francis died this afternoon aged 76.

Bill was Wales’ 30th captain, leading us six times, the first being against France in February 1977 against France, deputising for the injured Dai Watkins. He was the first heritage player to ever captain Wales.

Born in Featherstone, he qualified to play for Wales due to the grandparent rule. He won 19 Wales caps, which were all consecutive and included starring in the famous “Battle of Brisbane” in the 1975 World Championship. He also played in three tour matches for Wales in 1975. He was appointed as an interim joint head coach of Wales, alongside John Mantle, in 1978 for one game, where they also played.

He was capped four times for Great Britain, twice in 1967 against Australia, and then the next were ten years’ later, in the 1977 Rugby League World Cup against New Zealand and Australia. He also made appearances for Great Britain in five tour matches down under that year. He also made eight appearances for Yorkshire.

Bill started playing rugby league in Normanton, which is where he was brought up, and his performances first came to light when Sunday afternoon inter-town youth matches were televised in the early 1960s. He was a member of Featherstone Rovers U17s and played in the Castleford and District side, and it was while playing for this team that he was discovered by Wigan scouts. He signed for the club in March 1963 for £1,500, which was a record Wigan fee for a junior at the time.

Bill made 400 first-class appearances for Wigan, where he won Lancashire League, Lancashire Cup and BBC Floodlit Trophy winners medals, scoring 159 tries and kicking 43 goals in the process. He went on to play for St Helens, where he made 73 appearances, scoring 22 tries, then Oldham, where he was player-coach in 1979-80 before finishing his career at Salford.

Everyone at Wales Rugby League send their deepest condolences to all of his family and friends.

William Lloyd Francis 01/11/1947-17/02/2024