World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has led the tributes to Tom Kiernan, who has passed away aged 83.

One of the true giants of Irish rugby, Kiernan amassed 54 caps for Ireland (24 as captain) and five tests for the British and Irish Lions (four as captain) before going on to coach Ireland to the Five Nations Championship in 1982 and 1983, the latter as joint champions with France.

His mark on the global game as an administrator is perhaps less well known, but certainly no less impactful. As one of Ireland’s representatives on the IRB (World Rugby) Council from 1994-2000, he was central to some of the biggest moments in the sport’s history – the game going open and a landmark Rugby World Cup 1995 in South Africa.

Kiernan also served as an honorary treasurer of the IRB and a director of the Rugby World Cup Board in 1999, when the tournament was hosted by Wales.

The Irishman also served as Chairman of the Five Nations and European Rugby Cup.

Kiernan was awarded the IRB Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2015.

Beaumont said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Tom Kiernan’s passing. He was a true legend of Irish and British and Irish Lions rugby, a fantastic player and a hugely successful coach. A visionary in many ways.

“But he also cared deeply about the sport on an international level and his contribution to the then IRB was no less impactful, playing a leading role in some of the biggest moments in the history of the sport, including the game going open and a transformational Rugby World Cup in South Africa. He made a huge contribution to Irish, European and global rugby.

“Our thoughts are with the Kiernan family and all of Tom’s friends.”