World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has led tributes from the rugby family after the passing of Tonga Prime Minister and former Tongan Rugby Union President Hon. Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva today, aged 78.

The longest-serving Prime Minister in Tonga’s history and a long-time supporter of rugby, including a spell as President of the Tonga Rugby Football Union, Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva (pictured second left) played an instrumental role in strengthening the union’s governance and administrative structures as in partnership with World Rugby.

Speaking on arrival in Tokyo, Beaumont said: “On behalf of World Rugby and the global rugby family, I send our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva and the wider Tongan rugby community at this difficult time.

“As President of the Tongan Rugby Football Union, Mr Pohiva was a dedicated and proud supporter of the game of rugby. World Rugby will offer our full support to the ʻIkale Tahi, who are here in Japan preparing for Rugby World Cup 2019.”

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said: “On behalf of the ‘Ikale Tahi Rugby World Cup squad I would to expresses our deepest sympathies to the Pohiva family with the passing of our Prime Minister, the Honourable Akilisi Pohiva.

“Mr Pohiva was a proud, passionate Tongan who worked incredibly hard for his people.

“Mr Pohiva was a great supporter of Tongan rugby and provided strong support for ‘Ikale Tahi.

“The ‘Ikale Tahi will keep him in our thoughts and prayers.”

World Rugby is currently liaising with the Tongan Rugby Football Union on an appropriate way to recognise Samuela 'Akilisi Pohiva’s contributions to rugby.