IT is sad to report the passing of former Saints, Wigan, Salford, Oldham, Wales and Great Britain stand off Bill Francis, who died on Saturday aged 76.

A player with a great sidestep and passing skills, Bill arrived at Knowsley Road in October 1977 after 13 seasons at Wigan with Saints paying a £8,000 transfer fee.

He stepped into the role vacated by Billy Benyon at stand off, playing two seasons in the red vee.

He scored on debut against Hull in the autumn of 1977 – one of his nine tries that year and in his first season helped guide Saints to the 1978 Challenge Cup Final.

Francis scored a try from a scrum move in that final as Saints built a 10-0 lead against the holders, but alas Leeds fought back to edge the Wembley showpiece 14-12.

Bill made 73 appearances for Saints, scoring 22 tries, before departing for Oldham, where he was player coach. He signed off his playing career at Salford.

Bill was brought up in Normanton and his playing performances soon caught the eye in the inter-town youth matches, which were televised in the early 1960s.

He was picked up the Wigan scouts and joined the Cherry and Whites in March 1963 for £1,500 - a record Wigan fee for a junior at that time.

Bill made 400 first-class appearances for Wigan, with the side winning the Lancashire League, Lancashire Cup and BBC Floodlit Trophy.

He scored 159 tries and kicking 43 goals for the Riversiders.

Although Featherstone-born, Bill qualified for Wales through heritage and skippered the national side in six of his 19 caps.

For Wales he played in the infamous Battle of Brisbane in the 1975 World Championship when they beat England in a bruiser of an encounter.

Bill was versatile and could play along the backline.

He was capped four times for Great Britain, twice in 1967 against Australia, and then the next caps were ten years later, in the 1977 Rugby League World Cup against New Zealand and Australia, where he also played five tour matches.

He also made eight appearances for Yorkshire.

We send our condolences to Bill's family at this sad time.