Former Ulster, Ireland and Lions prop Syd Millar last night stepped down as International Rugby Board chairman on the eve of the World Cup final between England and South Africa at the Stade de France in Paris.
The French Rugby Federation president Bernard Lapasset succeeds Millar, who did not seek re-election for the most important position in world rugby at an IRB council meeting in Paris yesterday.
Millar, who was elected as IRB chairman in November 2003 after serving as interim chairman for a year following the death of Vernon Pugh, will be remembered as one of the game's great administrators.
He represented Ireland as a player, coach and manager, and was elected president of the Irish Rugby Football Union in 1995 after 10 years of service. He served on the Six Nations committee and was also chairman of the British and Irish Lions from 1999-2002. Millar joined the IRB council as an Ireland delegate in 1994 and served in that position until taking over from Pugh.
Lapasset last night paid tribute to Millar's contribution to the world game.
" I am honoured to be following such a figurehead who has played, coached and administered the game at the highest level," said Lapasset, a key figure behind the France 2007 bid and in his capacity of chairman of the organising committee played an instrumental part in the most successful World Cup.
"I would like to thank Dr Syd Millar for his extremely important contribution for the development of the game. He has managed to adapt the IRB strategic plan to the realities of today's game and he has modernised the organisation's governance and management structures.
"The game has never been in such good health. The global success of Rugby World Cup 2007 has put rugby very much in the forefront of people's minds and it is important that we continue to capitalise on that success."