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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 09:50 GMT 10:50 UK
Rugby mourns Pugh
Vernon Pugh brought rugby union into the professional age

International Rugby Board chairman Vernon Pugh has died after a long illness.

Pugh, 57, had a cancerous tumour removed from one of his kidneys last September and finally lost his battle with the illness on Thursday night.

He will be best remembered as the man who brought rugby union into the professional age.

The Cardiff-based QC was hugely influential in rugby's development as a professional game and kept close links with Welsh rugby after his elevation to the world stage.

IRB acting chairman Syd Millar issued a statement which read: "It is with deepest regret that I have to inform you that Vernon Pugh QC, our chairman, sadly died on Thursday night.

"He had been ill for some time and our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and many friends."

A little over a decade ago, Pugh was coaching Cardiff High School Old Boys on a muddy field in the Welsh capital.

Brought up in the Amman Valley in a mining family, Pugh had seemed destined for the pits of south Wales.

But he instead opted for a career in the legal profession, going to Aberyswyth University and later Downing College, Cambridge University, before qualifying as a barrister.

Pugh played for Cardiff HSOB and was described by a former team mate as a "brave player who never skipped out of a tackle."

Impressed

He played at centre alongside brother John, but having qualified as a barrister just before joining the club his appearances for the team were often limited by work.

With his rugby and legal background, Pugh impressed the Welsh Rugby Union and in 1994 was elected as its chairman.

After three years in that role he was poached by the IRB to take up his post as the board's first ever independent chairman

Under Pugh, the sport became more professional from grass-roots level upwards. He was instrumental in bringing Italy into the Six Nations championship and helped set up the Heineken Cup.

Some of his measures proved unpopular - the proposed northern-southern hemisphere clash or removing New Zealand's position as co-hosts of the 2003 World Cup.

Other proposals have been well received - the European competitions and the increased backing of the IRB World Rugby Sevens circuit.

Pugh's impact on his sport has been immense and rugby will be much the poorer for his passing.

He is survived by his wife, Dorinda, and their three daughters.




SEE ALSO
Rugby chief treated for cancer
09 Sep 02  |  Wales
Kingmaker: Vernon Pugh
15 Oct 02  |  International
Tributes pour in for Pugh
25 Apr 03  |  Internationals

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