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Tribute | A hero to rugby's heroes

England’s World Cup winners are among the rugby heroes who have paid tribute to Leicester Tigers’ former captain, coach, president and director David Matthews.

The club’s appearance record-holder and an influential figure over a 65-year association at Welford Road from his debut in 1955, Matthews has died at the age of 82. But his contribution to the club and to the game of rugby will not be forgotten.

Martin Johnson, the England captain who lifted the World Cup in Australia in 2003 during a highly-decorated career at Leicester, said: “When I first joined the club, David was first-team coach and then moved into roles on the committee. He was a constant for the entire time I was at the club.

“David is Mr Leicester Tigers. There is always a lot of competition for that title and there has been for a long time, but David Matthews is Mr Leicester Tigers. It was and will remain him.

“Above all, he was a club guy. He was local, from Rutland, and went to Oakham School, and a club guy who loved the club.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest or smallest club in the world, guys like David are what make rugby clubs what they are and so special around the world.

“David will be sadly missed but forever fondly remembered.”

Sir Clive Woodward, the former Tigers centre who was head coach when England won the World Cup, described Matthews as “a brilliant guy in every way”.

Lewis Moody, who followed Matthews’ route from Oakham School to the Tigers first-team, wrote on social media: “It was an absolute pleasure to know this incredible man” and Neil Back also joined the tributes to his fellow back-rower.

A fifth World Cup winner, Ben Kay, followed Matthews from the pitch into the boardroom at Welford Road and added on Twitter: “The Greatest Tiger on and off the field – thank you David” as tributes poured in for the Tigers favourite.

England cricketer Stuart Broad played in the same Oakham School rugby team as Tigers duo Tom Croft and Matt Smith, and he showed the breadth of Matthews’ influence by adding his voice to the tributes, tweeting: “Absolute legend. RIP”.

Tigers have set up an online Condolences Book for supporters to add their own messages as a tribute to a man described as “the legends’ legend” and “the heart and soul of the Tigers”. Click here to add your contribution.