World Rugby has paid tribute to Lee Smith ©World Rugby

World Rugby has paid tribute to its former development director Lee Smith, who has died.

Smith, a former director of coaching at New Zealand Rugby (NZR), was development director of the worldwide body, then called the International Rugby Board, from 1996 to 2001.

He was responsible for the establishment of the union and regional development grants programme during his time as development director.

World Rugby said his legacy in this area "lives strong and will continue to benefit many more rugby players around the world in the future".

Smith, a former coach in New Zealand, went on to serve as development manager for Oceania from 2001 to 2010 and continued his association with the sport after his retirement, providing technical support to Asia Rugby and the Korean Rugby Football Union.

"Lee was a high performance and coaching visionary, making his mark on so many teams, unions and the game as a whole," World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.

"My thoughts are with Noelene and the rest of his family."

Legendary former Irish international Brian O'Driscoll also paid tribute to Smith. 

"A great coach I have a huge amount to be thankful for personally, helping me get my shot at international rugby, probably before my time," O'Driscoll said.

NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said Smith "definitely left his mark not only in our country but around the globe".