Tributes paid to Durham rugby player Thomas Howard, who died in Sri Lanka

A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Thomas Howard, 25, who died on a tour in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing problems on Sunday. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.
A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Thomas Howard, 25, who died on a tour in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing problems on Sunday. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.
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Tributes have been paid to amateur rugby player Thomas Howard, who died on his club's end-of-season tour to Sri Lanka.

The 25-year-old was admitted to hospital on Sunday with breathing problems, after travelling to the city of Colombo with the Clems Pirates team from Durham City RFC.

A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

He later died, while teammate Tom Baty, who was also taken to hospital, is continuing to receive treatment.

The pair's breathing issues were not rugby-related, the club said, but no further details of the fatal incident were provided.

The club issued a statement which said: "The Howard and Baty families have requested that their right to privacy is respected."

Durham City RFC president Richard Wilkinson said: "On behalf of all members and friends of the DCRFC family we would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Thomas Howard."

A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

A photo issued by Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

Mr Wilkinson also extended his best wishes to Mr Baty and those in Sri Lanka supporting him.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with you all," he said.

"Both players and Clems Pirates hold a special place in our rugby family, and our continued support is unconditional."

Mr Wilkinson added: "We will also continue to support the Clems Sri Lankan tour party by being in regular contact with senior club officials out in Sri Lanka."

Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty, who remains in hospital in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing problems on Sunday. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

Durham City Rugby Football Club of amateur player Tom Baty, who remains in hospital in the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka after suffering breathing problems on Sunday. Durham City Rugby Football Club/PA Wire.

The club president also thanked people for the many message of sympathy and support that have been received from members, friends and the wider rugby family.

"They are very much appreciated at this difficult time," he said.

Durham County Councillor David Boyes said Durham City RFC was a very well organised, well-equipped organisation which oversaw a number of teams.

He said the club had organised numerous tours abroad in the past and had never had any problems before.

"I really feel for the families, being that far away and knowing that a family member has died must be terrible," he said.

Durham County Councillor Richard Ormerod said it was very sad news for all those involved.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends and team-mates," the councillor said.

He added that Clems Pirates was well known in the community.

They do a lot of good work raising money for charity and introducing people to rugby, he said.

England rugby player Tamara Taylor was among those offering their sympathies on social media.

She tweeted: "Unbelievably tragic news. Sending love to all at Clems Pirates and @DurhamCityRFC #RugbyFamily."

Neil Foster, chief executive of Tynedale RFC wrote: "Tragic news. My thoughts are with both families, all @DurhamCityRFC & the #Clemsmen stuck out in Colombo."

Aaron Tillyer wrote: "Such sad news from my old rugby club @DurhamCityRFC.

"Thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. RIP."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said they were assisting families of two British men.