Brian Moore has been left devastated by the death of BBC broadcasting colleague Eddie Butler at the age of 65.
Butler, a former Wales captain, died on Thursday during a trek in Peru which had been organised to raise money for prostate cancer research.
Former England hooker Moore, who worked alongside him providing commentary on Six Nations matches, said he had felt “incredibly close” to Butler despite not spending a great deal of time together.
“I’m a lot more upset than I thought I was going to be, to be honest. (I’m) just devastated, especially for him to die at that age and on that sort of charity trip,” Moore told BBC Radio Five Live.
“It’s strange in lots of ways because we didn’t work together that often, we wouldn’t have done like a whole football season – (it was) Six Nations and a few other games per year.
“We didn’t spend that much time in each other’s company, didn’t visit the houses and yet we were – I felt at least and I’m pretty sure he felt the same way – just incredibly close.
“I can’t account for the depth of feeling given the limited amount of contact. I had immense respect for him.”
Butler starred in Pontypool’s back row in the 1970s and captained the side between 1982 and 1985.
His Test debut came in January 1980 when Wales defeated France 18-9 in the Five Nations. He retired from international rugby in 1985 aged 27.
After working as a teacher in Cheltenham for three years, Butler joined Radio Wales as a press and publicity officer in 1984.
He returned to BBC Wales in 1990 after launching a newspaper journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent, followed by stints with the Observer and the Guardian.
The accomplished broadcaster’s poetic poise and lilt lent itself in later years to colourful voice-over pieces, often delivered on Olympics duty.
“I remember when I worked with him, at first the verbal stick he used to get because he wasn’t Bill McLaren and he had to follow a genius in broadcasting and gradually over the years people did come to give him the full credit he deserved,” Moore said.
“Not least because of the montages he put together for the BBC, which were brilliant, on all sorts of sports. And, in the end, like a lot of these things, he came through and was recognised for the great, great talent he was.
“Commentary is a really subjective matter and you can’t please everyone no matter what you do.
“But I think Eddie went a long way, in the end, to pleasing most people because if people listened with any objectivity they had to understand he knew his subject thoroughly, he was a wordsmith, and he knew when not to speak.”
Former Wales playmaker Jonathan Davies also tweeted a tribute to Butler.
“Totally devastated with the news about Eddie,” he posted. “Lost a charming man and a great friend. My thoughts are with Sue and all the children.”
Television presenter Gabby Logan, who fronts the BBC’s Six Nations coverage, added: “Eddie was a wonderful broadcaster, the kindest man and such great company.
“Many of us who worked with him are heartbroken.”
Tributes were also paid by Wales’ politicians, with First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeting: “Extremely sad to hear of Eddie’s passing.
“Eddie was an incredible player and a supremely talented broadcaster. Wales will miss him terribly.”