A POPULAR character of Gwent sport who achieved the unique double of representing his country at football and rugby in the same season has died.

It is thought that Renato Basini-Gazzi was the first person to play internationally for Wales in both sports when he did so as a teenager in 1950/51.

A scrum-half with Newbridge, Tredegar and Blackwood, he was born to Italian parents in Tonypandy in 1935, before moving to Blackwood aged two following his father’s death.

While attending New Tredegar Technical School and working in the family cafe, he honed his skills with both the oval ball and round ball.

This led to him winning caps at under-15 level, playing football and rugby for Wales in games against Ireland and Scotland respectively.

He was called up for national service in 1953 and joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner, which involved him serving in Korea.

But sport was not far away and soon he was playing rugby for a Commonwealth XV against Japan in a team made up of 13 New Zealanders, one Scotsman and one Welshman.

In 1961 he married Angiolina and together they owned a cafe in Dowlais, while six years later the couple moved to Cwmbran where the husband and wife ran a fish and chip shop.

They worked there for 30 years, and in that time became a big part of the community, with children Anna and Paolo giving them four grandchildren, Laura, Eliana, Luke and Francesca.

Former Newbridge secretary and press officer John Evans played outside ‘Nato’ at Tredegar and remembers his half-back partner fondly.

“He was a real character,” he said. “Newport had four sides back in those days and they held trials at Rodney Parade.

“Six of us who played for the county under-18s went down and there was a big marquee serving food and drink.

“There were so many people waiting to be served that Renato found a white coat from somewhere, put it on and served us all afternoon.”

The funeral takes place this Friday at Our Lady of the Angels RC Church in Wesley Street, Cwmbran, starting at 11am followed by burial at Llwyncelyn Cemetery at 12.30pm.

Meanwhile, Newbridge RFC stages Brandon’s Crippsmas Cracker tomorrow night with guests Graham Price, Mike Ruddock and Ian Stephens.

Phil Steele hosts the event, a fundraiser in aid of former prop Brandon Cripps, which starts at 7pm. Tickets are £30.

l It has been confirmed that Newport’s scheduled league fixture against Aberavon has been moved to Friday, January 10 as it will be shown live by BBC Wales. The match kicks off at 7.05pm.