It was in unusual circumstances that the rugby world came together in spirit, if not in person, to pay tribute to former Wales centre Matthew J Watkins.
Watkins passed away earlier this month at the age of 41 from a rare form of pelvic cancer and his funeral was streamed live on Tuesday with just ten family members able to attend due to social distancing restrictions.
So while the large crowds that would otherwise have attended were not at Thornhill Crematorium in Cardiff, people from across the rugby world were still able to pay tribute to Watkins.
Among them was former Wales back-rower Alix Popham, who had urged people to tune in wearing a club tie, jersey or badge to show how much Watkins meant to them.
— Alix Popham (@AlixPopham) March 31, 2020
Former Wales fly-half Jonathan Davies and ex-Wales centre Tom Shanklin also paid tribute to the former Scarlets and Wales man.
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Another good man taken far too early, Matthew J. Watkins funeral today. Didn’t know him as well as others, but he was by a long way the most popular man in Welsh Rugby. Thoughts with all his friends and family today 🙏🏻
— Tom Shanklin (@TomShanklin) March 31, 2020
Watkins spent time playing rugby in England for Gloucester, and some of his Cherry & White teammates were also keen to share their memories of him.
A farewell to former team mate Matthew J Watkins at 2pm. Strange being hundreds of miles from his funeral but lovely to be able to stream the ceremony and acknowledge a special human who meant so much to so many. You’ll be missed MJ. ❤️
— Rory Lawson (@rorylawson9) March 31, 2020
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MJ Watkins funeral today, a very sad day made worse by the unusual time we are living in at the moment. Only 10 people can go to his funeral! MJ rest in peace, you brought a lot of fun and fabulous friendship to the lucky people who got to share a rugby field with you. #ripMJ
A farewell to former team mate Matthew J Watkins today. You’ll be missed MJ. ❤️ https://t.co/F2yyZFo6pC
— Olivier Azam (@OliArmagnac) March 31, 2020
Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips played with Watkins at both the Scarlets and internationally.
— Mike Phillips (@mikephillips009) March 31, 2020
And every team Watkins played for also paid tribute to the former centre.
The funeral of our former player and great friend Matthew J Watkins takes place at 2pm today. Our thoughts as a Scarlets family are with Stacey, the boys and all his family and friends ❤️
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) March 31, 2020
Our thoughts and love are with the family and friends of Matthew J Watkins on this difficult day.
— Newport RFC (@NewportRFC) March 31, 2020
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Matthew J Watkins today as they say goodbye. 💔
— Gloucester Rugby (at 🏡) (@gloucesterrugby) March 31, 2020
Matthew J Watkins’s funeral service will be streamed live at 14:00 today. Follow this link to find out how you can pay your respects: https://t.co/QvvUHsV9Gq
Cwsg mewn hedd, MJ ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6zIK3sJNBL
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 31, 2020
Watkins won 18 caps for Wales between 2003 and 2006, making his debut in the 2003 Championship as a replacement against Italy.