Rugby: Former New Zealand Rugby chairman Eddie Tonks dies

  • 20/10/2020

Former New Zealand Rugby chairman and life member Eddie Tonks passed away at the age of 85.

Tonks was NZR’s Chair between 1990 and 1995 and also a Chair of the International Rugby Board (now World Rugby). 

In 2004, he was made a Life Member of NZR.

Current NZR chairman Brent Impey said Tonks’ contribution to rugby was immeasurable.

"Eddie started on what was then the NZRFU Council in 1986, and played a key role in the organisation of the 1987 Rugby World Cup, which of course was a huge success," Impey says.

Nearly a decade later in 996, he helped lay the groundwork for the game to go professional.

"He was hugely respected in both business and rugby and will be missed," Impey adds. 

"Our thoughts are with his wife Claire and their family."

Tonks' initial appointment to the NZR Board came amid the Cavaliers controversy. The team, all but two of whom had been selected for the cancelled 1985 tour of South Africa, due to a legal challenge in New Zealand, made a rebel tour without the approval of NZR.

Players who made the tour received a two-test ban, contributing to New Zealand's loss of the Bledisloe Cup that year.

But it was also a period of change in the game. World Rugby had been convinced by New Zealand and Australia to stage a Rugby World Cup, and Tonks became involved with the preparation for the inaugural event hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 1987.

He became Chair of the Union in 1990 and served until 1995 when world rugby was on the cusp of going professional. He also had a stint as chairman of World Rugby.

Tonks is survived by his wife Claire, children Murray and Carolyn, three grand children and three great grand children.