South East Wales

Ely rugby player Vincent Francis collapses and dies after game

Vincent Francis playing for Caerau Ely RFC
Image caption Vincent Francis (centre, with ball) had played for the club for 30 years

A father of three has collapsed and died after playing rugby on Boxing Day.

Widower Vincent Francis, 48, from Ely in Cardiff, came out of retirement to play the friendly match for Caerau Ely RFC but told team mates he felt unwell during the game.

Mr Francis was replaced by a substitute but he collapsed with a suspected heart attack on the sidelines.

His daughter Sophie, 20, and other family members were at the game and rushed to his side.

An ambulance was called and paramedics attempted to treat Mr Francis at the scene but it was too late.

'Sad loss'

Caerau Ely RFC chairman and friend Mike Meredith said: "I spoke to him in the changing rooms before the game.

"He was fine and looking forward to playing and looking forward to getting on the pitch.

"He made a quip saying it was no excuse me not playing because I had my baby grandson with me.

"I didn't see him collapse because my grandson was getting fractious so I'd walked away with him.

"He had just come off the pitch substituted and felt a bit ill and collapsed on the sideline.

"It was a suspected heart attack.

"He was a personal friend. It is a sad loss to the club and we will all miss him."

Mr Francis, who worked for Rentokil and was known by his team mates as 'Vince the Prince', had played for Caerau Ely RFC for 30 years.

He played regular first team rugby until last year.

Mr Meredith said: "He was always there at the club, everybody knew him.

"He was just an ordinary bloke who loved his rugby and his family."


Mr Francis leaves daughter Sophie, and sons James, 24, a Welsh Guardsman, and Ross, 18.

James has played for the Caerau Ely RFC first XV alongside his father.

Friend John Lovell, who also played alongside Mr Francis, added: "A lot of people called him Vince the Prince. He was a good-looking chap and he also had the gift of the gab.

"He was definitely a cheeky chappy, but he was also a great player who was a member of the club for 30 years.

"He has been one of the longest serving players and he was still playing up until last year.

"His family are doing okay, but it will take some time to get over such a tragedy."

Mr Francis became captain of Caerau Ely RFC Youth in 1983 and starred as outside half for the first team.

He was the club captain between 1992 and 1995 and remained involved in the club as assistant coach and backs coach.

A minute's silence was held at Caerau's home match on Saturday in his honour.