World Rugby has joined the tributes to former referee and match official selector Andrew Cole, who has passed away after battling cancer.

A much-loved member of the officiating community, the Australian officiated 31 tests between 1997 and 2005, including refereeing at two Rugby World Cups. However, it is his impact on a generation of world-class match officials in a national and international context that will be his enduring legacy.

The recipient of the World Rugby Referee Award in 2021, Cole's contribution as a mentor, coach and selector has supported some of the biggest names in officiating as well as a host of those involved in the community game. Cole served on World Rugby's Match Official Selection Committee from 2012-15, implementing policies designed to protect the welfare of referees.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We have lost a truly wonderful and valued member of our family. Andrew was more than a brilliant official, coach and a selector, he was a person who deeply cared about his match officials, their wellbeing and lives. He will be missed all those who had the privilege of knowing him.”

World Rugby High Performance 15s Match Officials Manager Joel Jutge added: “The rugby community will know Andrew for the great referee that he was, but for myself, the World Rugby selectors and match officials, he was much more than that. He was an outstanding coach, mentor and selector, passionate about the game and about the people he supported. He was simply a wonderful person and I am proud to have called him my friend and I will miss him dearly.

“His contribution to the international game should not be underestimated. He gave so much to the professional and amateur forms of the game over four decades as a referee, referee coach, World Rugby selector and mentor to many referees. Many of the current team of match officials will have been assisted by his words of encouragement and expertise.

“The thoughts of the World Rugby match officials team are with Andrew’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Cole is survived by wife Anne-Maree, children Michael, David and Megan and two grandchildren.