Former World Rugby President Bernard Lapasset has died at the age of 75 ©Getty Images

Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet has led tributes to Bernard Lapasset, who he described as the "founder" of Paris 2024, the former head of World Rugby who has died aged 75. 

"His passing is a huge loss, I appreciate how lucky I was to grow with him," Estanguet said.

Lapasset also spearheaded the entry of rugby sevens to the Olympics.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has hailed his predecessor for "putting rugby on the global map," during his time leading the sport.

“I know I speak on behalf of colleagues and the global rugby family when I say that Bernard Lapasset will be remembered as a great leader and a true visionary, who presided over huge growth in our sport, returning us to the Olympics and putting rugby on the global map," Sir Bill said.

“Throughout his tenure, his passion and dedication was always evident and he was a champion of the sport’s values from the field of play to the boardroom and beyond," 

Beaumont played international rugby for England when the sport was still strictly amateur but Lapasset's leadership helped guide the game into the professional era and develop the Rugby World Cup.

"Lapasset devoted his life to rugby, be it as a player, coach, manager and ambassador. His impact on the development and promotion of rugby in France and around the world is undeniable." a statement from the French Rugby Federation said.

Valérie Fourneyron, the former Sports Minister who had suggested Lapasset lead the Paris 2024 bid campaign, sent her condolences in a social media message.

"Immense sadness at the loss of our friend, a giant administrator in rugby who enabled the sport to be included in the Olympics, sincere condolences to his family," Fourneyron wrote on Twitter.

In 2017 Bernard Lapasset co-chaired the Paris 2024 Olympic bid with Tony Estanguet ©Getty Images
In 2017 Bernard Lapasset co-chaired the Paris 2024 Olympic bid with Tony Estanguet ©Getty Images

"With the death of Bernard Lapasset, France loses a great lover of sport and one of its best historical Ambassadors," current French Sports and Olympics Minister Amelie Oudéa-Castéra added.

Before embarking upon a career in sports administration, Lapasset was France's director of customs.

Lapasset had succeeded Albert Ferrer as President of the French Rugby Federation in 1991.

He came to the forefront of the international game in 1995, when the World Cup was staged in South Africa and for his work for the game's transition to a professional sport.

He was also a key figure in the organisation of the 2007 Rugby World Cup held in France, seen as a major milestone in transforming the competition into a global sporting event.

The 2007 tournament broke records for attendance, broadcast audiences and commercial receipts.

The same year Lapasset was elected to lead the International Federation succeeding former Irish rugby international Syd Millar in the role.

In 2009, at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Copenhagen, Lapasset headed the delegation which successfully campaigned for rugby sevens to be included in the Olympics.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Bernard Lapasset," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

"He will be greatly missed by French sport and the Olympic Movement."

Bernard Lapasset, second left, led the successful campaign for the inclusion of rugby sevens on the Olympic programme ©Getty Images
Bernard Lapasset, second left, led the successful campaign for the inclusion of rugby sevens on the Olympic programme ©Getty Images

Rugby sevens was introduced to the programme for 2016 and has helped develop the sport in new areas.

"Bernard Lapasset's vision for rugby's future was instrumental in the growth of the sport, and his legacy will continue to shape the sport for generations to come," Rugby Africa President Herbert Mensah said.

"His commitment to the sport was unwavering, and his tireless efforts helped to elevate rugby to new heights, we recognise his significant contributions to the development of the sport globally."

Lapasset served two terms as World Rugby chairman before standing down in 2016 to concentrate on the Paris Olympic bid for 2024.

In the same year he was invested with the Legion D’Honneur by then French President Francois Hollande.

At the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, he was awarded the Vernon Pugh Trophy for services to his sport.

Last year, in his home town of Tarbes, Lapasset was presented with the Olympic Order. 

Lapasset, who died yesterday, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in the years before his death.