A Soviet general and renowned test pilot who formed the Soviet Rugby Federation in 1967.

His love of aviation saw him pilot over 6,000 flights between 1943 and 1981, the year he retired as Lieutenant General of the Russian Air Force, and there are unsubstantiated claims that he, not Yuri Gagarin, was the first man into space in 1961.

It was while studying aviation that Vladimir Ilyushin fell in love with rugby, and he continued to help develop the sport, even after the Soviet Union was disbanded, until his death on 2 March, 2010, two days before Russia qualified for their first Rugby World Cup.

He served in a number of key roles, including Honorary President of the Russian Rugby Federation and national team manager. It was through his drive and vision that a nationwide domestic rugby competition was established.