Mr Pickering stressed that Mr Rowlands's contribution to the global development of the game was massive. As a player he had reached the heights with both Wales and the British and Irish Lions, and he also channelled the same degree of passion and enthusiasm into his role as a respected administrator with Wales and the IRB.
In over a decade of dedicated service to the IRB Mr Rowlands was an important driving force behind the introduction of the Rugby World Cup and its development into one of the foremost sporting events in the world. His death will be mourned throughout the rugby community.
Mr Pickering said that Mr Rowlands began his long association with the IRB in 1983 as a Welsh Rugby Union representative, and had been, until his retirement in 1996, closely involved with the game's governing body as a Council Member and then as Chief Executive, having been appointed after the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.
He added it should not be forgotten that Mr Rowlands was one of the visionaries who voted in favour of staging the first Rugby World Cup at the Paris Meeting in 1985 and from that point on, his strong involvement with Rugby World Cup burgeoned, both as a Member of the Organising Committee for the inaugural tournament and also as a Director for Rugby World Cup 1991.
Mr Rowlands remained closely involved in the administration and development of Rugby World Cup until his retirement in 1996, driving its development as the IRB's Chief Executive Officer and playing a large role in laying the foundations for the global success that the tournament enjoys today.
In 1997, Mr Rowlands was asked by then IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh QC and RWC Chairman Leo Williams to come out of retirement and lend his considerable experience to managing RWC 1999 in Wales. The tournament was a resounding commercial success.
After the conclusion of RWC 1999, Mr Rowlands's love of the game ensured he remained actively involved in rugby as Patron of Aberaman RFC, President of Rhiwbina RFC, the Welsh Academicals and the Welsh Deaf Rugby Association, and the Welsh Players Charitable Trust and, of course as WRU President, a position he was recently re-elected to for a third consecutive term.
The Chairman stated that Mr Rowlands will be remembered not just as a great stalwart and champion of Welsh Rugby both as a player and an administrator, but also as a dedicated IRB Council Member, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the IRB. The thoughts of everyone associated with Welsh rugby are with his devoted family at this difficult time.
Mr Ken Hewitt added that he and his fellow Directors were eternally grateful for the friendship and encouragement Mr Rowlands had given to all.
Gareth Edwards, the legendary Wales and Lions scrum half and former Cardiff RFC teammate of Mr Rowlands, said: "Keith was club captain when I first arrived there as a 19-year-old and I remember the warmth and generosity of his welcome to the club. He was the one person I remember more than anyone else who put his arm around me, took me into the dressing room and told me to come and meet the boys."
Derek Morgan, a former Wales Secondary School teammate, England international and former President of the RFU, added: "Keith was always a difficult man to play against on the field, and a lovely man off it. He had a great career as a player and then a marvellous one as a rugby administrator."
Sir Brian Lochore, a former New Zealand captain, coach and team manager, said: "As a man and as a player he was always the same - a very big and strong personality. He was 'Mr IRB' and he did a tremendous job for world rugby. I believe a big reason for that was the respect and support he gained around the world - and certainly in New Zealand. He was a total gentleman."