GWENT rugby stalwart Keith Westwood – who went up against the famous 1963 All Blacks – has passed away at the age of 79.

Westwood had a playing career in which he was a full-back/centre for Ebbw Vale and Newbridge in their pomp.

He wore the 12 jersey for the Abertillery and Ebbw Vale side that lost 13-0 to the New Zealand tourists who were beaten just once, at Newport, on their 36-match tour of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and France in 1963/64.

After hanging up his boots Westwood coached Abercarn, ‘Bridge, the Steelmen, the Black and Ambers and Monmouthshire.

“He was a servant to Gwent rugby for over 50 years,” said his son Jonathan, who followed in his father’s footsteps to play full-back and is currently director of rugby at Cross Keys.

“My life as a young child was shadowing him – I was a ball boy wherever he was. I have some great memories of Newbridge when they were at the top table of Welsh rugby with some superb players.

“He was quite an innovative player, running with the ball in an era when there was a lot of kicking.

“He was a fine player who had to retire through a series of head injuries but wouldn’t change anything for the world, he took that course of life and didn’t regret a thing.

“He was then one of the first coaches in Wales and his biggest attribute was that he could communicate with any player, of any age, of any level.”

Westwood battled dementia and passed away on New Year’s Eve.

“The tributes and kind words have been very touching and show that he was held in such high regard by so many people, I’m so proud of him,” said Jonathan.

Funeral details are yet to be arranged.