‘Inspirational’ Tom Smith hailed as one of Scotland’s best after death aged 50

Brian O’Driscoll among those to pay tribute to the prop who played on two Lions tours

Scottish prop Tom Smith in action during the 1997 Lions Tour in South Africa. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Gregor Townsend hailed Tom Smith as one of Scotland's best ever players following the former prop's death at the age of 50.

Smith, who was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer in November 2019, made 61 appearances for Scotland and helped them win the Five Nations in 1999.

He also played six times for the British and Irish Lions and was part of the team that triumphed in South Africa in 1997.

Scotland head coach Townsend said: “Tom was one of the toughest and most skilful players I had the pleasure to call a team-mate.


“He succeeded in the most challenging of environments and kept up a high level of play well into his thirties.

“Tom also did a tremendous amount for charitable causes and was a great family man. I am convinced that he will be regarded as one of our best ever players and his loss will be felt by all those who played with him or watched him for club and country over the years.”

Chris Paterson, who also played alongside Smith for Scotland, said: "Tom was simply inspirational. He was someone who had an aura that I didn't experience with any other player and commanded instant respect.

“As well as being a wonderful rugby player, he was a lovely, warm generous person and made you feel 10 feet tall when he spoke to you.”

Scottish Rugby chairman John Jeffrey added: "Today, Scottish Rugby has lost not only one of its greatest players but more importantly one of its greatest people. Tom embodied everything we like to espouse about our great game.

“Pound for pound, he probably was Scotland’s greatest international. Tom was without a doubt the most humble person I have ever met and all of Scottish Rugby’s thoughts go out to Zoe and the children.”

A message on the Lions’ official Twitter account said Smith “made an incredible impact” for the team and “was one of the great props to play the game.”

Brian O’Driscoll, Smith’s fellow Lions squad member in 2001, tweeted: “So sad to hear of the passing of my old team-mate Tom Smith who battled his illness with courage and strength – just like he played rugby. A quiet but lovely man who was a hell of a player. Thinking of his family.”

Named in Ian McGeechan’s Lions squad to face South Africa in 1997, despite having played just three times for the Scots, Smith would go on to play in all three Tests as the tourists won a thrilling series 2-1.

Two years later he was celebrating again, as Jim Telfer’s Scotland side won the final edition of the Five Nations.

Smith retained his Lions place two years on from that in Australia, again starting all three Test clashes in a series that ended 3-0 to the Wallabies.

The honour of captaining Scotland was first bestowed during the 2001 autumn Tests while the following year his talents were recognised as he was named among a World XV.

Smith started his professional club career with Caledonia Reds in 1996 before racking up stints at Glasgow Caledonians and Brive. He brought the curtain down on his playing career in 2009 after an eight-year spell at Northampton, aged 37.

Smith returned north of the border soon after as he moved into coaching with Edinburgh, then enjoying three years in France from 2012 as he was recruited to look after Lyon’s forwards.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said on Twitter: “Deeply saddened to hear that Tom Smith has passed. One of the great players of his time with huge strength and an even bigger heart, he was imperious for the Lions in 1997. Tom will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of watching him play. Condolences to his family.”

Former Scotland international Doddie Weir tweeted: "Unbelievably sad news. He was one of the very best, as a person, as a friend and as a player. An unassuming legend, you'd always want him on your side. My thoughts are with his family. Rest easy Tammy Troot. "

Neil Back, another of Smith's Lions team-mates, posted a message saying: "Such sad and terrible news. A true warrior, a great lionsofficial who epitomised the spirit of our 1997 squad. Our thoughts are with Tom's family and friends #RIP Tom Smith."