New Zealand coach Steve Hansen led the tributes to All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads, who has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81.
Meads played 133 times for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971, appearing in 55 Tests, and the King Country lock earned an international reputation for his fierce play.
“His achievements in the black jersey are part of the All Blacks legacy and his loss will be felt over the world,” Hansen said.
Meads was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August last year, and died on Sunday morning at Te Kuiti Hospital.
“On behalf of the All Blacks, we’d like to pass on our condolences and sympathy to the family,” Hansen said at a press conference.
“He is a legend of the game, a legend of New Zealand’s game, and it is always sad when one of the big Kauri trees fall – and that is what has happened.”
Meads captained the All Blacks in the famous series against the British and Irish Lions in 1971, and was named New Zealand’s player of the century by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union in 1999.
Nicknamed ‘Pinetree’ by team-mate Kevin Briscoe in 1958, Meads’ reputation for fearless and tough play was sealed when he played an entire match with a broken arm in 1970.
“This is an incredibly sad day,” All Blacks captain Kieran Read said. “Sir Colin was an icon of our game. I met him a few times and he was always keen to share a beer and have a yarn. He is an absolute legend, not only in New Zealand rugby, but in world rugby.”
Meads was involved in rugby all his life, going into coaching and management, as well as administration, after his playing days were over.
“His ability to play the game first and foremost and his passion for rugby long after he stopped playing – he was a coach; he was a manger for the All Blacks, and at grassroots he was involved,” Hansen added.
“He didn’t just play for the All Blacks; he didn’t just play for King County or his club; he just gave back in many other ways and he is true rugby. That will be his legacy.”
And, as well as his life in rugby, New Zealand prime minister Bill English said Meads would also be remembered simply as a good man.
“Sir Colin represented what it means to be a New Zealander. He was no-nonsense, reliable, hardworking, warm and very generous with his time,” he said on Twitter.
“A sad day for New Zealand rugby and for New Zealand. Sir Colin was not only a great All Black but also a genuinely good Kiwi bloke. He will be missed.”