South East Wales

Nevin Spence: Tribute to Ulster player at Cardiff Blues game

A minute's silence has been held before Cardiff Blues played Ulster in the Irish team's first game since centre Nevin Spence died with his father and brother in a farm accident.

Spence, 22, was killed at Hillsborough on 15 September.

Blues' director of rugby, Phil Davies, said the best tribute was to let rugby do the talking in Friday's Pro12 match.

More than 6,000 mourners attended a memorial service at Belfast's Ravenhill ground last Sunday.

"He was a particularly outstanding player for Ulster and obviously he'll be sorely missed," said Davies.

"If we can put on a fantastic game of rugby I think it would be a fantastic tribute to the young man."

The players will wore black armbands at Cardiff Arms Park, but Blues hooker Andy Kyriacou, who until this season played alongside Spence for Ulster, said the players will not need them to keep Spence in their thoughts.

"It's been very quiet this week," he said. "It's just been such a difficult time for everyone.

"I think they will keep themselves to themselves and any talking will be done through rugby rather than banter this time.

"I just can't really get my head round it and I'm sure a lot of them are the same.

Mark of respect

"It is a great loss to the game - he was without doubt one of the best professionals I have ever worked with and he was only a young kid.

"I think everyone in Europe saw him as the guy who would be coming through for Ireland in that 12 shirt in the future."

Spence, along with his brother Graham, 30, and their father, Noel, 58, were overcome by slurry gas at their farm.

Ulster's match against Italian side Zebre last weekend was postponed as a mark of respect.

Image caption Nevin Spence died along with his brother Graham and their father Noel

The service, led by Ulster rugby chaplain Rev Andrew Thompson, also contained readings by captain Johann Muller and scrum-half Paul Marshall.

Ireland international hooker Rory Best, who will miss Friday's game through injury, said: "The mark Nevin left runs deeper than rugby.

"Nev would tell a ridiculous joke and then be beaming from ear to ear. No-one could work out whether he was a comic genius or told really bad jokes."

"He would give the boys tips on their love life; 'All you need is a girl who looks like Cindy Crawford and is able to calf a cow in the middle of the night,' he'd joke."

He added: "The entire Spence family all shared Nevin's humility, bravery and determination. These traits set him apart on our squad."

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