England coach Steve McNamara described Steve Prescott as "superhuman" after the 39-year-old, who had been battling cancer, died.
McNamara was a former England and Wakefield team-mate of Prescott, who was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal stomach cancer in 2006.
"I saw him pretty much straight after he was diagnosed and he looked very unwell then," said McNamara.
"When you look at how much longer he lived, what he did was superhuman."
McNamara, speaking after his team's 34-12 victory over Fiji in Hull, used to travel to training with Prescott on a daily basis when they both played for Wakefield in 2000.
"We both had a tough time at Wakefield and when I saw him over recent years we used to sit down and have a moan and a groan about those days," added McNamara.
"We became very close friends and the news that he has died is very tough to take."
McNamara invited Prescott to join his England team before their mid-season match against the Exiles in Warrington and the former St Helens, Hull and Wakefield player handed the players their match shirts.
"He spoke to the players before that game and told them that the body will do what the mind tells it," said McNamara.
"He was not in great shape then, he had been told again he could not eat or drink but he dragged himself there."
Prescott raised more than half a million pounds for charity through the Steve Prescott Foundation and was awarded an MBE in 2009 for his efforts.
"We all talk about all the feats that he achieved after finding out about his illness but I also like to remember him as a fantastic rugby league player," said the England coach.
McNamara told the England squad shortly before they left their hotel to head to the match, which was their third at the 2013 World Cup.
Loose-forward and Wigan skipper Sean O'Loughlin said that there was a subdued atmosphere on the coach as they travelled to the KC Stadium.
Prescott had played in a match featuring former Wigan and St Helens players during O'Loughlin's testimonial year with the Cherry and Whites.
"He was a quality bloke," said Wigan skipper O'Loughlin."When we found out was a very emotional moment, a tough one to take.
"He leaves behind a real legacy with all the charity work that he has done while fighting his illness."
St Helens forward and BBC pundit Jon Wilkin was another close friend of Prescott's and said the 39-year-old's attitude to battling his illness was a lesson for us all.
"Despite the fact he had been very ill for a long time, I am still devastated," said Wilkin.
"He is a huge example of human endurance and spirit. If there was one thing I learnt from him it was that the desire to keep going is inside of everybody."
Prescott also played four times for Ireland, whose coach Mark Ashton paid tribute to the former international following his country's 50-0 defeat by Australia in the World Cup on Saturday.
"He just kept fighting and I would not expect anything else from him. He's been a champion bloke and he fought a battle which he has sadly lost. We got inspiration from that.
"That inspiration will help drive us forward as a nation. We get spirit from that."
St Helens will open a book of condolence for their former player Prescott, which can be signed at their Langtree Park ground from Sunday.