Carlisle rugby union legend Chris Wardlow has died, it has been announced.

The Cumbrian, who played six times for England, passed away in his sleep in the early hours of Monday morning.

He was 81.

Carlisle Rugby Club, where Wardlow spent his formative years, have paid tribute to the illustrious centre.

"Members of Carlisle RFC, especially the old ones in our community, will be saddened to learn of the passing in the early hours of today, 12th February, of Chris Wardlow," the club announced.

"Chris was a valued member of the club and after he left our club, he went on to have an illustrious career with Northampton and Coventry, and "capped" it off with several games for England.

"At the time writing no funeral arrangements were known but these will be circulated in due course."

Wardlow started out in his home city at Carlisle and went on to play for Northampton and Coventry.

He won his first England cap in 1969 against South Africa and Twickenham.

He went on to play five more times for his country, his last appearance coming against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1971.

His debut saw Wardlow only the second substitute to play for England, with his other five outings coming as a starter.

Among his other appearances, against Wales, Ireland, France and Scotland, Wardlow came up against the great Wales side which included JPR Williams, Barry John, Gerald Davies and Gareth Edwards.

Known for his ferocious crash tackling, he was also selected for the British & Irish Lions squad in 1971 to tour Australia and New Zealand, but suffered a fractured jaw playing for the Northern Counties against Coventry which ruled him out of the tour. 

Another famous game involving Wardlow was the North West Counties' team's memorable victory over the touring All Blacks in 1972 at Workington's Ellis Sports Ground.

The 16-14 win for the hosts, which included a Wardlow drop-goal, was the first time the All Blacks had been beaten by a provincial English side.