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‘A Titan Of Rugby Union’ – Dr Syd Millar CBE (1934-2023)

‘A Titan Of Rugby Union’ – Dr Syd Millar CBE (1934-2023)

Dr Syd Millar is pictured during the 2007 Rugby World Cup caps presentation for the Ireland squad ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Dr Syd Millar CBE has sadly died at the age of 89, leaving an indelible rugby legacy from his involvement with Ballymena, Ulster, Ireland, the British & Irish Lions, and World Rugby.

IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts said tonight that Millar was ‘a titan of rugby union and a visionary’.

A stalwart of Ballymena Rugby Club and Ulster Rugby, Millar made his Ireland debut in 1958 and won a total of 37 caps as well as playing on three British & Irish Lions tours – 1959, 1962 and 1966.

Millar went on to coach Ireland between 1973 and 1975 and was the mastermind behind the Lions’ undefeated tour to South Africa in 1974. He also served as Lions manager on the 1980 tour and as Ireland manager at the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Syd MIllar with the Ireland 1987 Rugby World Cup Squad

His influence extended into the administration of the game when he served as Ulster Branch President, IRFU President in 1995, and then Chairman of the British & Irish Lions from 1999 to 2002. He was appointed Chairman of the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) in 2003 and served until 2007.

Dr Millar was made a CBE in 2005 having previously been named an MBE, and was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2009, as well as being awarded the Légion d’honneur in December 2007.

Speaking tonight, IRFU Chief Executive Kevin Potts commented:

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 latter years was a leading administrative figure who helped reshape the global game.

“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 which 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.”