Rugby world pays tribute to Lions and Ireland great Kiernan

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The Ireland team stand for a minute's silence in memory of Tom Kiernan

Tributes from the rugby world have flooded in for British & Irish Lions and Ireland legend Tom Kiernan, who left an incomparable legacy in the sport.

A two-time Lions tourist to South Africa in 1962 and 1968, Kiernan passed away on Thursday at the age of 83 after an illustrious career as a player, coach and administrator.

Kiernan won 54 caps for Ireland and kicked the winning score in their first victory over South Africa in 1965 before also captaining them to a first Test triumph in Australia in 1967.

Remembered as one of the best full-backs to ever represent the Lions, Kiernan also won five Test caps against the Springboks during his two Tours, captaining the 1968 tourists.

Two-time Lions tourist Tom Kiernan dies aged 83

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He enjoyed legendary status as a coach, leading Munster to a famous victory over New Zealand in 1978 before winning the Triple Crown with Ireland in 1982.

His talent also extended to his role as an administrator in his later years, most notably as one of Ireland’s representatives on the IRB (World Rugby) Council from 1994-2000.

Additionally, Kiernan served as an honorary treasurer of the IRB and a director of the Rugby World Cup Board in 1999, when the tournament was hosted by Wales.

Tom Kiernan

And World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont was one of many prominent rugby figures to pay tribute to Kiernan, who received a one minute’s silence before Ireland’s opening Six Nations match with Wales in Dublin.

Beaumont said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of Tom Kiernan’s passing. He was a true legend of Irish and British & Irish Lions rugby, a fantastic player and a hugely successful coach. A visionary in many ways.

“But he also cared deeply about the sport on an international level and his contribution to the then IRB was no less impactful, playing a leading role in some of the biggest moments in the history of the sport, including the game going open and a transformational Rugby World Cup in South Africa. He made a huge contribution to Irish, European and global rugby.

“Our thoughts are with the Kiernan family and all of Tom’s friends.”

The Irishman also served as chairman of the Five Nations and played an influential role in the formation of the European Rugby Cup, serving as its first chairman for four years.

Lions recognised with caps by 1888 Club

Awarded the IRB Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2015, Kiernan retired from playing with Irish records for most points (158), caps and appearances as captain.

IRFU President Des Kavanagh said: “It is with great sadness that I pass on condolences to the Kiernan family, on the passing of their beloved Tom, on behalf of everyone in Irish Rugby.

“Tom was an inspirational leader both on and off the pitch and he helped to shape rugby into the strong and vibrant game it is today. Tom’s life will be reflected upon at our matches this weekend, and his legacy will live long in the history of Irish rugby, may he rest in peace.”

Lions tourist, 2001 Tour manager and former Ireland international Donal Lenihan also paid a glowing tribute to Kiernan, the centenary president of Cork Constitution in 1991-92.

He said: “For me, Tommy’s influence on Cork Constitution extends to this day. I was fortunate to captain the club with Tommy as president in our centenary year and it was evident then just what a global figure he was in the world game.

“That said, his first love was Cork Constitution where his deep family ties extend into the current playing and coaching roster.

Tom Kiernan

“He was my first coach at international level and offered me the opportunity to play at international level at such a young age. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that he presented to me.

“In later years in management, both with Ireland and with the British & Irish Lions, he was a constant source of help, support and encouragement. My sympathies go to Marie and his family.”

Kiernan scored all but three of his side’s 38 Test points across four matches while captaining the Lions in 1968 and Alan Quinlan believes he will be remembered as an all-time rugby great.

“When you look back and see what Tom achieved as a player, as a coach, as an administrator in the game, it’s phenomenal,” said Quinlan, a former Ireland international and Munster legend.

“We often talk in modern times about Brian O’Driscoll, Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara and what they achieved in my era and my time – and rightly so.

“But you forget what someone like Tom achieved, to get 54 caps in a time when there wasn’t that many internationals, you didn’t have your summer Tests, November.

“There certainly weren’t as many internationals, to get 54 caps and to captain the team, captain Munster, coach Munster, the list is endless and I think what Tom gave to the game was incredible.”

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