Ireland and Lions legend Millar dies aged 89

Former Ireland prop and British and Irish Lions player, coach and manager Syd Millar has died aged 89.

Ulster prop Millar played 37 times for Ireland and featured in nine Lions Tests across three tours.

He then coached the hugely successful Lions series win over the Springboks in 1974, and was manager of the tour to South Africa in six years later.

Millar was also chairman of the International Rugby Board (IRB, now World Rugby) from 2003 until 2007.

Ballymena native Millar was also manager of the Ireland national side at the Rugby World Cup in 1987.

Ballymena Rugby Club said it announced the passing of “highly esteemed” Millar with “deep regret”.

A statement read: “On behalf of everyone connected with Ballymena RFC we extend our sincere condolences to his daughter Lesley, sons Peter and Johnny and family.”

The Lions posted on social media: “There aren’t many people who have given as much to the Lions, or our sport, as the great Syd Millar.”

Ulster Rugby said it was “deeply saddened” by Millar’s death, describing him as an “Ulster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions legend”.

“His contributions and legacy will forever be etched in rugby history,” added the Ulster statement.

In October 2019, the Syd Millar Pathway was opened at Ulster’s Kingspan Stadium in recognition of his services to the province’s rugby.

Millar a ‘titan of rugby union’ – IRFU

Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive Kevin Potts described Millar as a “titan of rugby union” and extended the governing body’s condolences to his family.

“Syd was a visionary who helped navigate the testing waters as the game moved from amateurism to professionalism,” said the IRFU chief.

“Syd’s influence helped drive the global expansion of the sport. His is a legacy which will endure.”

Millar spent 22 years at his local Ballymena club and featured for the Barbarians side on 10 occasions.

He won 37 caps for Ireland from 1958-1971 and retired from playing in 1972.

Millar became president of the Ulster Rugby Union in 1985 before taking on the same role with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) 10 years later. He was also chairman of the Lions from 1999-2002.

Already on the IRB council, he was appointed vice-chairman in 2002 and became interim chairman the following year following the death of Vernon Pugh.

He was elected as chairman – the highest administrative role in world rugby – later that year, presiding over the 2003 and 2007 World Cups before he was succeeded by Bernard Lapasset.