The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) would like to offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and teammates of former Newcastle Falcons prop, Paul Van-Zandvliet.
A Premiership champion during his time at Falcons, Paul passed away on Wednesday morning following a battle against an inoperable brain tumour and cancer in his kidneys and liver. Since being diagnosed early in 2016, Paul fought the disease with remarkable strength and determination, showing tremendous spirit to inspire others and raise money for a number of worthy causes, including Restart Rugby, the official charity of the Rugby Players’ Association. Paul’s formidable courage and resilience in the face of such difficult circumstances saw the North Shields-born front-rower recognised with the RPA Blyth Spirit Award at the RPA Players’ Awards last month. Upon receiving his award Paul said, “Doing charity work has been like therapy and has allowed me to put something back into the game I love”. Paying his respects to Paul, RPA Group CEO Damian Hopley, said: “Paul was one of the great rugby characters and you only have to hear the wonderful tributes paid to him by a host of International rugby legends including Jonny Wilkinson, Pat Lam, Rob Andrew and Dean Ryan to see the positive impact he had on all those people who were fortunate enough to know him. He fought this terrible illness to the bitter end and the world is a greyer place with Paul’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with Paul’s family and friends at this very difficult time.” Phil Winstanley the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby added: "Clearly this is devastating news for everyone within the game of rugby union. I remember well travelling to Newcastle and playing against Paul. He was the local lad in a team of superstars which won the league title in 1998 and he wasn’t there as a token gesture. He was a tough and uncompromising opponent with a steely edgy and it’s clear that he has fought his illness in the same way. I’m sure that I join everyone in rugby in sending condolences - on behalf of everyone at Premiership Rugby - to his family and to the Newcastle Falcons rugby family."