World Rugby has expressed condolences following the death of former Development Director, Lee Smith.

World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are saddened to hear of Lee Smith’s passing. As IRB Development Director (1996-2001) and Oceania Development Manager (2001-10), Lee was a high performance and coaching visionary, making his mark on so many teams, unions and the game as a whole. My thoughts are with Noelene and the rest of his family.”

Following stints as a teacher, coach of Otago and 13 years at New Zealand Rugby as Director of Coaching, Lee joined the IRB, now known as World Rugby, in 1996. Lee was instrumental in developing many long-standing initiatives such as the global coach education pathway and coaching qualifications, development funding bands and leading the law review process.

During his time as IRB Development Director Lee was responsible for the establishment of the Union and Regional Development Grants programme, focused on the technical development of the game globally. His vision in this area introduced a system which continues today and at present sees £8 million per year invested in grants for unions and regions.

His legacy in this area and in the training and education resource development lives strong and will continue to benefit many more rugby players around the world in the future.

In 2001, Lee returned to Oceania as Development Manager and continued to work tirelessly with the member unions in that region. After retirement in 2010, Lee continued his association with the sport, providing technical support to Asia Rugby and the Korean RFU.

Lee will be fondly remembered as a visionary. A man of dignity and patience, who took great joy in supporting coaches, administrators and unions towards fulfilling their potential. He worked by the mantra that he was motivated by seeing others improve and succeed, and so many in the game were fortunate to have benefited from his wisdom, guidance and advice over the years.