New Zealand Rugby mourns death of former chairman Tonks

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former New Zealand Rugby Chairman Eddie Tonks has died aged 85, NZR said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tonks played a leading role in organising the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 and helped usher in professionalism in 1995. He also served as International Rugby Board (now World Rugby) chairman and was made a life member of NZR in 2004.

"His record speaks for itself," NZR Chief Executive Mark Robinson said in a statement.

"He left the game in a better place than he found it."

Tonks was elected to the NZR board in 1986 as it took on a more business-like focus. It was also a time of turmoil with the organisation dealing with the fallout from a rebel tour of apartheid-era South Africa.

He was elected NZR chairman in 1990 and served in the role for five years.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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