New Zealand Rugby has expressed its sadness following the passing of Australian rugby great Sir Nicholas Shehadie, aged 91.
A distinguished figure, politicians and business figures paid tribute.
Mr Abbott tweeted: "Sir Nicholas Shehadie improved everything he was involved with".
With the support of New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Dick Littlejohn, he drove the creation of the first Rugby World Cup played in 1987, despite initial resistance from the northern hemisphere ranks within the IRB.
He was appointed a knight bachelor for his service as Lord Mayor of Sydney from 1973 to 1975 and was the husband of former NSW governor Dame Marie Bashir.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sir Nicholas "contributed a lot to the state across public life, media and sport" and would be deeply missed. Was the @SBS Chairman 1981-99, 18 yrs and instrumental in our formation.
Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne said: "Not only have we lost one of our great Wallaby captains, we have lost a truly great Australian".
Wallabies great and architect of first Rugby World Cup, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, dies
"The thoughts of the global rugby family are with his family, friends and the Australian rugby community at this hard time". "Our thoughts are very much with Marie and the family, lovely people".
"His contribution to rugby has a lasting influence both on and off the field".
He later served as chairman of the New South Wales Rugby Union and was president of the Australian Rugby Union between 1980 and 1987.
"He was the first player to play over 100 matches for Australia, including 30 Test matches, but he was a man that transcended the game and is admired equally for his career in public life following his twelve years of global rugby".
His nephew Rob Shehadie also tweeted a tribute: "Rest In Peace Sir Nick Shehadie".
Sir Nicholas died in hospital on Sunday night, 2GB reports.
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