Ray Gravell won 23 caps for Wales and played in all four tests for the Lions during the 1980 tour of South Africa. Since his retirement from the game he remained closely involved with rugby and became President of Llanelli while forging a new career both as an actor and sports broadcaster with the BBC and S4C.
Recently he had his right leg amputated below the knee after complications set in linked to the diabetes he had suffered from for the past five years.
He lived in South West Wales with his wife Mari and their daughters Manon and Gwenan. A proud Welshman, he was also a member of the Gorsedd.
The Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, said: "He was a great ambassador for rugby and a wonderful example of how the game can bring out the best in a man.
"As a player he always gave a huge amount of respect to his opponents but never made a backward step against anyone on the field of play. It is a measure of the man that he forged rugby friendships which lasted a lifetime."
WRU Chairman David Pickering, who is a former Llanelli teammate, said: "Ray was an inspiration both on and off the field and he will never be forogotten by anyone associated with rugby, not just in Wales, but around the world.
"He was renowned for his strength and passion and it was always reassuring to know that Ray was in the line up on our side. He was a great and skilful player and also a great family man who will be sadly missed by us all."
Former British and Irish Lion and WRU Director Gerald Davies said: "We will remember his deeds on the field but much more than that we'll recall his wonderful personality.
"He had great courage and great resilience on the rugby field and he showed those exceptional qualities off the field in recent months following his illness.
"The great Carwyn James once said that when Grav played for Wales there was no prouder Welshman. This is a desperately sad day."
The First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, said: "He was a fantastic, extrovert character. I am desperately sad for his family, but they will draw strength from his bravery.
"He'd have tackled a Sherman tank if it played for the other side. We think of him and Steve Fenwick as one of the great Welsh centre pairings. He was an outstanding centre in one of the outstanding eras of Welsh rugby."
Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards said: "It is desperately sad especially as he was making such a great recovery from his recent operation. Our thoughts are with Mari and the girls.
"Ray was larger than life and although he lacked confidence in his own ability he truly was an exceptionally good player."
The former Wales and Lions captain John Dawes said: "He was an exceptional Welshman. In all the time I have known him I never heard anyone talk against him and I never heard him say anything bad about anyone else."
Former Wales, Llanelli and Lions star Phil Bennett, who was also a broadcast colleague of Ray Gravell, said: "We have lost a great man. Ray Gravell was a great patriot. When he wore the red jersey of Wales he couldn't wait to join the battle. Ray was a truly remarkable character."
Broadcaster Roy Noble said: "He was loved as a rugby player, as a broadcaster, and he was very important to the Nation. He was a warrior."
BBC Wales presenter Jamie Owen said: "There are few people in the world who are immediately recognised by their surnames, but Grav was."