07/13/2015 06:53 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Former Rugby Canada president Monty Heald dies at 78, helped grow governing body

TORONTO - George (Monty) Heald, who was Rugby Canada's longest-serving president, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 78.

Heald, who headed up Canadian rugby's national governing body from 1991 to 1999 and was one of only two honorary life members, died Friday according to Rugby Canada.

Heald, born in Derby, England, took up rugby at school and brought his love of the sport with him when he moved to Canada in 1968.

He captained the Hamilton Hornets and was a founding member and first captain of the Burlington Centaurs, before moving into the administrative side of the sport, with the Niagara and Ontario Rugby Unions.

Heald became a national selector in 1981 and chaired the Canadian Rugby Union selection committee from 1983 to 1994. He also served as manager of the Canadian sevens and 15-man teams.

Heald was elected to the Canadian Rugby Union board in 1986 and served as director of the national team from 1986 to 1991 when he was elected president in 1991.

The game turned professional in the mid-90s with Heald presiding over the growth of Rugby Canada.

The sport's governing body says the number of international fixtures involving Canada increased by 160 per cent from 1990 to 1999 with Canada participating in Rugby World Cups, in 1991, 1995 and 1999.

Heald was inducted into the Ontario Rugby Union Hall of Fame in 2004.

Heald was actively involved in the rugby community until last year, coaching at the Waterdown High School in Ontario and serving as chair of Rugby Canada’s past presidents committee, chair of the Hall of Fame committee and member of the annual awards committee of Rugby Canada.