A NORTH Devon rugby star with the unique distinction of playing at Twickenham and Wembley has died suddenly, aged 69. Mike Blackmore, who lived at Westleigh, collapsed while having a meal with friends at Saunton Golf Club on New Year's Day and later die

A NORTH Devon rugby star with the unique distinction of playing at Twickenham and Wembley has died suddenly, aged 69.Mike Blackmore, who lived at Westleigh, collapsed while having a meal with friends at Saunton Golf Club on New Year's Day and later died.Blackmore was a teenage rugby sensation who played for England U15s while a pupil at the old Barnstaple Secondary Modern School. By 16 he was playing on the wing for Barnstaple 1st XV and at 17 he played the first of 42 games for Devon. He went on to captain the county side and was part of the Devon team that played in three County Championship finals between 1956-1961.England selectors looked at Blackmore time after time - by 22 he had appeared in five national trials - but he never gained a full cap. Having made his name in the union game, it was inevitable the rugby league scouts would come calling and in 1961 Blackmore turned professional with Hull Kingston Rovers.Blackmore made 190 appearances for Hull KR, scoring 96 tries and kicking six goals. One of the highlights of his professional career was appearing in the 1964 Rugby League Challenge Cup final at Wembley, when Hull KR lost to Widnes.Kevin Squire, the current director of rugby at Barnstaple, followed Blackmore into the professional ranks 20 years later when he joined Leeds.He said: "It was clear that Mike was a legend in the game and many people told me what a terrific player he was , particularly when we used to play at Hull KR. I have also been told by many people that Mike was really unlucky not to win that elusive England cap. The word 'legend' is an over-used term in sport, but this guy truly was, both in Devon rugby union and the world of rugby league."Barnstaple's players, supporters and officials will pay tribute to Blackmore by observing a minute's silence before this Saturday's game against Taunton at Pottington Road.His funeral takes place this Friday at Instow Church.