Batley Bulldogs scrum-half Archie Bruce has been found dead in his hotel bedroom, the Betfred Championship club have announced.
The 20-year-old had made his debut for Batley during Saturday night’s match against Toulouse in the south of France.
Club chairman Kevin Nicholas said in a statement: “Batley Bulldogs are greatly saddened to announce the passing of their player Archie Bruce who was found in his hotel bedroom early this morning having made his debut against Toulouse the previous evening.
— Batley Bulldogs RLFC (@BatleyRLFC) August 18, 2019
“Archie’s immediate family have been informed.
“Batley Bulldogs, the RFL and the RFL Benevolent Fund will be supporting the family while enquiries by the French authorities continue, with the club squad delaying their return to the UK.
“The Bruce family have requested privacy during this most difficult of times.”
Bruce had joined the Bulldogs from amateur club Dewsbury Moor and made his debut off the replacements bench in the 46-0 defeat to Toulouse.
Club director John Miller admitted he was struggling to come to terms with the death of “an infectious young fella”.
He told Radio Leeds: “Everyone is aware of how tragic it is. He was full of beans last night, very excited before the game, really, really giddy and happy with himself after the game and very proud as well.
“Then this morning he’s just not here and it’s difficult to get your head around, a young fella with the world at his feet.”
Asked how excited Bruce had been in the build-up to the game, he added: “He was giddy, he couldn’t really contain himself.
“He came on about 10, 15 minutes into the second half, so he didn’t play in the first half and he just kept running to the loo every five minutes. He was too excited and he kept running to the loo, he was getting that giddy. He was just keen to go on.
“But obviously he was focused on the game as well and when he got on against a real top quality Toulouse side, he looked the part in the 30 minutes. He just showed the promise that we knew he had.”
Batley said Bruce had been training with them for the 2019 season with a view to the 2020 campaign, but was handed his first professional appearance against Toulouse by head coach Matt Diskin “due to his energy and enthusiasm”.
They described Bruce as a “smart, polite, funny and extremely likeable young man”.
The RFL Benevolent Fund has created a Just Giving Page in Bruce’s name.
Dewsbury posted on their website: “Archie played rugby league at Dewsbury Moor since under 8s and at the age of 20 had been playing in the NCL open age team for a couple of years.
“Archie was also registered to play with Batley Bulldogs and as a club we are immensely proud that Archie made his debut for Batley Bulldogs last night in Toulouse.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Archie’s family, team-mates and friends at this extremely sad time.”
The RFL said a minute’s silence would be observed before Sunday’s Championship matches in Bruce’s memory.