Cumbria is mourning the death of one of the all-time great rugby league players, John "Sol" Roper.

Roper, who passed away suddenly on Wednesday at the age of 79, was a scrum-half who played with distinction for both Workington and Whitehaven in a career that spanned 18 years.

He played for England Amateurs at 17, scoring a try in a 23-0 victory over France at Headingley in April 1954, before turning professional with Workington.

He was in the team that lost 21-12 to Barrow in the 1955 Challenge Cup final at Wembley, where he returned three years later as the youngest-ever Cup final captain when they went down 13-9 to Wigan.

After amassing 399 appearances for Workington and taking a year out of the professional ranks, Roper moved on to neighbours Whitehaven in 1967, playing 82 times for them over five years, and took his Cumberland appearance record to 21.

Workington vice-chairman Mark Fryer said: "Everyone at the club, and indeed across the area as a whole, will be saddened at this news.

"Sol may have been diminutive in size was but was a giant of the sport and a hugely-respected figure. The word legend is perhaps used too often in the modern game these days but by any standard, or any era, he was a legend of the game.

"Sol attended games and club functions with enthusiasm and always cut a very smart figure in his club blazer and tie. We will all miss him terribly but we will retain many outstanding memories of Sol as a player and as a person.

"Our thoughts are with all the family at this very sad time."

Roper's son Tony and grandson Jonathan both enjoyed successful rugby league careers.