IRFU lead tributes for rugby great Syd Millar, who passed away age 89

IRFU lead tributes for rugby great Syd Millar, who passed away age 89

The IRFU is one of several sporting bodies that paid tribute to former Ireland and British & Irish Lions player Syd Millar, who passed away at the age of 89. 

The Ballymena native is best known for being capped 37 times for Ireland between 1958 and 1970 and for playing on three Lions tours in 1959, 1962, and 1968. He also coached the Lions to a series win over the Springboks in 1974 and was the manager of the tour to South Africa six years later. His coaching career also included stints with the Ireland national side at the Rugby World Cup in 1987. 

Millar became the president of the Ulster Rugby Union in 1985 and was appointed one of the representatives of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to the IRB Council in 1992. He became president of the IRFU in 1992. Soon after this, Millar was appointed IRB vice-chairman in 2002. 

He eventually took on the role of IRB chairman - the forerunner of World Rugby - in 2003, serving a four-year term and presiding over the 2007 World Cup. He stepped down as both IRB chairman and IRFU President in 2007. 

Syd Millar's contribution to Irish and world rugby meant that he was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2009, as well as being awarded the Légion d’honneur in December 2007. 

IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts described the legendary figure as a "titan of rugby union" on the IRFU website. 

"Syd Millar was a titan of rugby union, both in Ireland and globally. A talented player who represented Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland, the Barbarians, and the British & Irish Lions with distinction, he was a respected coach and manager, and in later years was a leading administrative figure who helped reshape the global game," said Potts. “Syd was a visionary who helped navigate the testing waters as the game moved from amateurism to professionalism. 

“A past President of Ballymena Rugby Club, Ulster Rugby, and the IRFU, his influence helped drive the global expansion of the sport. His is a legacy that will endure. On behalf of the Irish Rugby community, I would like to express my sincere condolences to his daughter Lesley, and sons Peter and Johnny, at this sad time.” 

His former team Ballymena RFC, where he played rugby for 22 years, also paid their sincere condolences to their former player. 

"It is with deep regret that the Board of Directors of Ballymena RFC inform members of the passing of highly esteemed member Syd Millar. On behalf of everyone connected with Ballymena RFC, we extend our sincere condolences to his daughter Lesley, sons Peter and Johnny, and family," said the club. 

While the likes of South African Rugby and the British & Irish Lions also offered their respects to him. "We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing,” said Mr. Mark Alexander, president of the South African Rugby Union (SARU). 

“He touched many lives in his remarkable rugby career, and he will forever be remembered as a towering figure in rugby history. On behalf of the South African Rugby Union, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the Irish Rugby community, the Millar family, and to all who knew this remarkable icon of the sport.” 

The British & Irish Lions account also added, "Rest in Peace Syd. There aren’t many people who have given as much to the Lions or our sport as the great Syd Millar. Three tours as a player, one as a series-winning coach, and another as a manager. He also served as a committee member, selector, and chairman. It all adds up to an amazing nine tours over six decades. All our thoughts are with his family and friends. He will be greatly missed."