Welsh rugby has lost one of its greatest servants with the news that the Honorary Life Vice Patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, Sir Tasker Watkins, died in hospital in the early hours of this morning, Sunday 9 September through natural causes.

WRU chairman David Pickering said, "Sir Tasker was one of the greatest living Welshmen throughout his fantastic life. He will be remembered as one of our nation's heroes; a man who was an inspiration to so many people in so any ways."

WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said, "This is a sad day for Welsh rugby because Sir Tasker was a great follower of the game and a great Welshman. He was very supportive when I started with the Union and I have grown to admire him and welcome his advice. He was widely known and respected at all levels of the game but he was especially passionate about his own club Glamorgan Wanderers, where he was president.

"Outside of rugby, he had a distinguished career in law and news of his death will affect so many people, not just in the UK but around the world."

Wales' Rugby World Cup captain Gareth Thomas said, "Sir Tasker was a man who had great respect from all the players, not just for his achievements as a person and as a war hero but for the way he respected Welsh rugby and everything that the players stood for. We all waited with anticipation for his after-match talks and I'm sure there will never be another person quite like him.

"We would all like to send our heart-felt condolences to the family and I'm sure everyone will take a quite moment to themselves today to reflect on the person he was and everything he stood for."

Former Wales captain Colin Charvis, who received his first cap from Sir Tasker in 1996 said, During good times and bad, he was always there with some words of inspiration for myself and the team.

Although the public didn't see too much of him, he was inspirational for the players and our condolences go to his family and close friends."

Wales coach Gareth Jenkins said, "Welsh rugby has lost a great supporter and I have lost a good friend. The game in Wales was made richer by his involvement and his passionate but courteous support. He was an elder statesman of the game but he was admired but even the young players as they reached the highest level."

Sir Tasker Watkins, who was born on 18 November, 1918, in Nelson, Glamorgan, was educated at Pontypridd Grammar School.

He served as a Lieutenant and then Major in the Welch Regiment throughout the Second World War, being awarded the Victoria Cross in 1944, before embarking on a long and distinguished career in law that reached its peak when he was appointed senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales in 1983, a position he held for eight years.

On leaving the Welsh Regiment after the war, Sir Tasker was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, in 1948 and was made a Bencher in 1970. He served as deputy chairman of Radnorshire Quarter Sessions between 1962 and 1971 and occupied the same position with Carmarthenshire Quarter Sessions from 1966 until 1971.

He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1965 and was Recorder of Merthyr Tydfil between 1968 and 1970 and of Swansea during 1970 and 1971.

Sir Tasker was Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit from 1970-71 and served as Judge of the High Court of Justice, Family Division, between 1971 and 1974 and of the Queen's Bench Division from 1974 until 1980. He sat as Presiding Judge of the Wales and Chester Circuit between 1975 and 1980 before taking up the appointment as senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales three years later.

Sir Tasker, who had been Counsel (as deputy to the Attorney-General) into the inquiry into the Aberfan disaster of 1966, chaired the Mental Health Review Tribunal, Wales Region, between 1960 and 1971 and was also chairman of the Judicial Studies Board during 1979 and 1980.

He was President of the University of Wales College of Medicine for 11 years from 1987 and President of the British Legion, Wales, between 1947 and 1968. He has been a member of the Territorial Army Association of Glamorgan and Wales since 1947.

He had a lifelong love affair with rugby union and had been chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union's Charitable Trust since 1975. He took up the Presidency of the Welsh Rugby Union in 1993 and held that post until 2004, when he stood down.

He became the 46th President of the WRU and the first man since Sir David Rocyn Jones in 1953 to hold office for more than one season and his 11 years make him the second longest serving President in the 126 year history of the WRU after Horace Lyne, who served between 1906-1947.

After informing the WRU chairman, David Pickering, of his decision to stand down, the Union's Board of Directors promptly created a new post of Honorary Life Vice Patron of the WRU especially for him. The Patron of the WRU is The Queen.

Speaking at the time, Mr Pickering said: "Sir Tasker undertook his duties as President of the WRU with huge commitment and great distinction. He is an exceptional man of high principles, honour and integrity who greatly enhanced the image and reputation of Welsh rugby for more than a decade. The WRU can ill afford to lose a man of such calibre and outstanding intellect. Following his announcement that he would be stepping down as President it was the unanimous decision of the WRU Board of Directors that we should invite Sir Tasker to become an Honorary Life Vice Patron. I am delighted that he accepted the new post, which was offered in recognition of his outstanding service to Welsh rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union."

He was also president of Glamorgan Wanderers RFC, for whom he played before and after World War II and captained their 2nd XV,.

He chaired the Sir Tasker Watkins Working Party that looked into the running of the game in Wales at the start of the new millennium, although their findings failed to receive the 75% majority required to come into being. However, the Working Party's review off the constitution of the WRU and the way the game was run did bring about wholesale change in 2002.

Appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Glamorgan in 1956, Sir Tasker became an Honorary Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Wales in 1979 and of Glamorgan in 1996 and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1992.

He married Eirwen Evans in 1941 and, in addition to his Victoria Cross, he was knighted in 1971, made a Privy Counsellor in 1980 and awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1990 and the Knight of St John (KStJ) in 1998.

In April, 2006, he was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Cardiff, joining an elite list that included David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

In handing over the keys to the city to Sir Tasker, the Lord Mayor, Freda Salway said: "He's exceptional, a one-off. He's an exceptionally courteous, gallant gentleman. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word."

Sir Tasker's VC He was 25 years old, and a lieutenant in the 1/5th battalion, The Welch Regiment, British Army during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 16 August 1944 at Barfour, Normandy, France, Lieutenant Watkins' company came under murderous machine-gun fire while advancing through corn fields set with booby traps. The only officer left, Lieutenant Watkins led a bayonet charge with his 30 remaining men against 50 enemy infantry, practically wiping them out.

Finally, at dusk, separated from the rest of the battalion, he ordered his men to scatter and after he had personally charged and silenced an enemy machine-gun post, he brought them back to safety. His superb leadership not only saved his men, but decisively influenced the course of the battle.

His Victoria Cross is on display in the Welch Regiment Museum located in Cardiff Castle.