Former Welsh Rugby Union secretary Ray Williams, who had been suffering from cancer, has died aged 87.
Williams received the International Rugby Board's Vernon Pugh award for distinguished service in October.
He is credited with revolutionising rugby coaching after joining the WRU as the world's first paid coaching organiser in 1967.
"Here was a man who did so much, yes in Wales but also throughout the world," said former Wales coach Clive Rowlands.
Williams was the WRU's coaching organiser when Rowlands, a former Wales player, led his country to four Five Nations titles as coach.
"I feel very sad but, at the same time, I look back and I think of the happy days as well," added Rowlands.
"Ray came in with new things and made coaching interesting.
"He made coaching a real important part of the game."
Williams went on to become WRU centenary officer in 1980 before succeeding Bill Clement as secretary, and left in 1988.
The former London Welsh and Northampton player was one of Wales' leading rugby officials throughout the glory years of the late 1960s and 1970s.
"He was a major influence," ex-Wales wing Gerald Davies said in October.
"His aim was to achieve for the highest possible levels of skills. Excellence was his theme.
"And the systems he created here in Wales were replicated all over the world."
Davies, whose exploits included a starring role in the British and Irish Lions Test series win of 1971, paid further tribute to Williams.
"He was responsible for the way we think about rugby football in the way he formulated and tabulated the skills and the requirements of rugby football," he said.
"And he arranged for coaches to be educated in the rudiments of the game; of the skills, the tactics, the techniques - the mechanics.
On announcing the award in October, IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Ray Williams is a wonderful example of how, through his selfless dedication to our sport and its character-building values, rugby can change lives, bring people together and provide tremendous camaraderie."