TRIBUTES have been pouring in for Vernon Pugh who has died after a long illness.

Pugh, from Glynmoch, Glanaman, lost his battle with cancer and passed away last Thursday night. He was 57.

A qualified QC as well as a lover of rugby, he became one of the sports most influential figures in the 1990s as he pioneered a new era of rugby union.

As chairman of the International Rugby Board he steered the sport from its amateur days into the professional era.

He was also instrumental in setting up the groundbreaking European Cup and introducing Italy to the Five Nations Championship.

But he always kept close links with Welsh rugby, even after leaving his post as chairman of the union to become the IRB's first ever independent chairman in 1997, and he will be fondly remembered as the man who brought the 1999 World Cup to Wales, giving the country unprecedented exposure on a world stage.

Current WRU chairman Glanmor Griffiths, who worked alongside Pugh in the early 1990s, said: "The name of Vernon Pugh will forever be etched into the history of Welsh rugby for his many achievements in a brilliant career with the WRU.

"He was instrumental in creating new wealth for our game via TV and sponsorship deals and gave Wales a powerful and authoritative voice on the Five Nations and IRB committees.

"He had a brilliant mind and a great love for rugby."

WRU chief executive David Moffett added: "Vernon Pugh will be remembered as one of the outstanding rugby administrators of his age, a rare breed who was able to combine his lifelong passion for rugby with a brilliant career as a sporting administrator."

Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain said: "Vernon Pugh was a great Welshman, a son of the Amman Valley, who won the respect of rugby management, players and fans throughout the world.

"His contributions to the development of professional rugby will be a lasting testimony to his great ability and he will be sadly missed."

Vernon Pugh was educated at Aberystwyth University and, latterly, Downing College, Cambridge. He is survived by his wife, Dorinda, and their three daughters.