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Millar joins rugby's world elite 'Legion'

By Gavin Mairs

One of rugby's true greats took a bow last night as outgoing IRB chairman Syd Millar received the Légion d'Honneur, France's highest decoration, at his beloved Ballymena club.

Millar's contribution to rugby football has been nothing short of phenomenal - from player, coach, manager and latterly world class adminstrator who presided over two outstanding Rugby World Cups and leaves the game well equipped to continue its global expansion in the professional era.

The French honour is not only appropriate, given the huge success of the recent World Cup in France, but also a hugely fitting end to his rugby career as he steps down as chairman of the world's governing body after five years at the helm.

The man who replaces him, Bernard Lapasset, was on hand at Eaton Park last night along with rugby's great and good to bestow the award on Millar on behalf of French President Sarkozy.

"It is with great honour that I am here tonight on behalf of President Sarkozy of France to present to Dr Sydney Millar, the Légion d'honneur for a lifetime of service to Rugby," said Lapasset.

"The Légion d'honneur is France's highest honour. It was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to replace Old Regime decorations that the French Revolution had abolished and was intended to reward both soldiers and civilians for exceptional merit, bravery or service.

"The recipient must have accomplished 20 years of public service or professional activities. Nominations to the Légion d'honneur are made by the President of the French Republic himself.

"President Sarkozy has personally directed that Syd should receive this honour in recognition of his outstanding service to the Game and to the community. He also asked me personally to present this award to my rugby friend Syd. Syd has achieved everything there is to in rugby, as a player, coach, manager and administrator.

"Of course he is presently serving as the Chairman of the International Rugby Board, from which he retires at the end of the year. He is also Chairman of Rugby World Cup Ltd but his achievements are many and include wonderful service both on and off the field over the years."

Millar, who won 37 Irish caps between 1958 and 1970 and played nine Test matches for the British Lions over the course of three Tours, said: "This award means a lot to me but it is a recognition of rugby football. It's great that my family and friends are all part of it."

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