'Pinetree' felled. All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

'Pinetree' felled. All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

'Pinetree' felled. All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

Sir Colin Meads at the official unveiling of All Black legend Sir Colin Meads bronze statue, and opening of the Gallagher Meads Brothers Exhibition at i-SITE, Te Kuiti, New Zealand.

Meads, nicknamed as "Pinetree" at an early age, was renowned for his toughness and uncompromising attitude in an worldwide playing career that spanned 14 years.

He was axed from the panel and for a time was persona non grata to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).

In 1999 he was named New Zealand's player of the century and the International Rugby Hall of Fame rated him "the most famous forward in world rugby" during the 1960s.

Current All Blacks skipper Kieran Read said Meads "was an icon of our game" and coach Steve Hansen echoed the sentiment.

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A sheep farmer from the rugged King Country district of New Zealand's North Island, Meads had great strength, stamina and toughness.

New Zealand's greatest ever player lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. "He will be missed", he wrote.

Rest in peace "pine tree" - Sir Colin Meads. "He was no-nonsense, reliable, hardworking, warm and very generous with his time", English said.

"He was a quintessential unassuming New Zealander - one of those we feel especially proud of as a nation".

Internationally, he was part of the all-conquering All Blacks who won 17 consecutive Tests from 1965-69, a world-record feat only bettered by the team's 2016 edition nearly 50 years later.

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Meads stayed on his farm near the small township at Te Kuiti until his death.

He played for the All Blacks 133 times, a number only exceeded by modern-day great Richie McCaw. "I didn't do it purposely to hurt him, I had hold of one leg and his other leg was stuck and he did the splits and was hurt terribly".

In 1967 he was sent from the field during a test match against Scotland. He retired from worldwide rugby in 1971 after captaining a young All Blacks team to their first ever series loss to the British and Irish Lions.

It was a reputation that Meads was happy to cultivate in later life, however, when he found a niche as an after-dinner speaker, regaling crowds with some of the tall tales and myths that had attached themselves to his name.

"Colin Meads was legendary and it is fitting that Te Kuiti has a marvellous statute of him".

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He survived by his wife, Lady Verna Meads, five children - Karen, Kelvin, Rhonda, Glynn and Shelley - 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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