Father pays tribute to rugby player Josh Gilbert who died during game

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Media caption,

Josh Gilbert (fourth from left on back row) was known as "Bear" by his teammates

The father of a 25-year-old rugby player who died during a match has described how the teams formed a "guard of honour" as his body was taken away.

Emergency services were called to Hadleigh Rugby Club in Hadleigh, Suffolk, at about 15:25 BST on Saturday after Josh Gilbert collapsed.

Attempts to resuscitate the Thurston Rugby Club player were unsuccessful.

Howard Gilbert said he was a "big, strong lad" and that the family did not yet know what led to his death.

He arrived at the scene shortly after his son collapsed and paid tribute to players from both teams who gave him "so much assistance on the pitch".

He said "not one man" went home until "perhaps an hour and a half" after Josh had first collapsed, and that they formed a guard of honour as his body left the ground in an ambulance.

Mr Gilbert said he asked the ambulance crew to divert past Ipswich Town Football Club where Josh had held a season ticket for 19 years.

Image caption,
Ambulance crews attempted to resuscitate Mr Gilbert, who collapsed 20 minutes into the game

Thurston chairman Matt Ansell said the club was in a state of shock and that Josh - who was known as "Bear" - was a "larger-than-life character".

He said: "He was really well-liked and respected. He will be deeply missed."

Josh collapsed 20 minutes into the game between the two clubs' second teams.

"It was obvious pretty quickly something significant was wrong," said Mr Ansell.

The East of England Ambulance Service and East Anglian Air Ambulance attended the scene.

The player had played as a prop for Thurston for three years and also played cricket for his home village Walsham-le-Willows, near Bury St Edmunds.

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