Sir Colin Meads obituary - the great Pinetree has fallen
All Black legend Colin "Pinetree' Meads has died at the age of 81, a loss which will be mourned throughout the rugby-playing world.
Meads, who died on Sunday, was the most famous of amateur era All Blacks, an icon who remained a highly popular figure here and abroad decades after his outstanding playing career ended.
In 133 matches for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971, the tough-as-teak King Country lock played 55 tests and became recognised throughout the world as the face of New Zealand rugby.
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He was a colossus of a bygone era, well before the advent of professionalism led to a huge increase in the number of tests played each year.
At 1.92m and 102kg, he was small by today's standards but always gave the impression of being a giant and complemented his natural athleticism with a rare ferocity.
Meads played hard and expected his opposition to do the same. He enjoyed his duels with rugged men such as Willie John McBride of Ireland, Benoit Dauga, of France, and Springbok Frik du Preez.
Although he began his international career as a flanker, it was as a lock that he played most of his rugby.
In the tight exchanges his immense strength made him a man not to be messed with, and in the open his excellent ball skills and desire to be involved were admired by teammates and feared by opponents.
He could play too hard, leading to dark moments in his career. In 1966 he punched British Lion David Watkins; in 1968 Australian halfback Ken Catchpole's career was effectively ended when he was torn from a ruck; in 1969 Welsh hooker Jeff Young suffered a broken jaw, courtesy of Meads.
His most infamous run-in with officialdom as a player was in 1967 when he was ordered from Murrayfield in the test against Scotland.
In his defence it must be said that Meads was also the victim on occasions.
During a test against France in Paris in 1967 a brutal kick to the head meant he had to play out the match with a huge bandage covering the wound.
In South Africa in 1970, his arm was broken with an aimed kick by an Eastern Transvaal forward.
Incredibly, he returned to play out the match with a huge bandage covering the wound. Later he appeared in the test series with his arm encased in a protective splint.
It was just another chapter in the incredible Meads legend.
There's no doubt he was one of the greatest rugby players ever seen.
Meads began a 19-season provincial career in 1955 and in the same year went on the New Zealand Colts' tour of Australia and Sri Lanka.
He made his All Blacks debut as a 20-year-old, playing both tests on the 1957 tour of Australia at flanker. In the second test, he scored the first of his seven test tries while deputising on the wing for the injured Frank McMullen.
He quickly became an indispensable part of a great forward pack, alongside players such as his brother Stan, Wilson Whineray, Kel Tremain, Ken Gray, Brian Lochore and Waka Nathan.
Former All Blacks coach the late Fred Allen once described Meads as an ideal tourist.
"Colin Meads' stupendously consistent form developed from his willingness to train yet it could never be said of Colin while he was on tour that he made training such a fetish that he was incapable of enjoying himself," Allen wrote.
"Those weekend enjoyment sessions of his became a famous part of New Zealand rugby - but once he had his fun, he resumed training as keenly as ever and kept his form as remarkably as ever."
He played his best rugby when locking the scrum with his brother Stan in 1965 against the Springboks and 1966 against the Lions. In the third test against France at Eden Park in 1968, he became the world's most capped international.
Meads was 35 when he captained the All Blacks against the Lions in 1971.
The home series loss was a sad ending to the international career of a man whose devotion to rugby and New Zealand was unparalleled.
Meads' motivation was simple: "I can remember saying I wanted to be not just an All Black but a good All Black."
When he broke his back in a motor accident in the late 1971 the nation was shocked.
Shock turned to awe when he returned to rugby the following winter, although he made himself unavailable for the All Blacks.
In 1973, Meads captained a President's 15 to victory over the All Blacks before retiring after a record 361 first-class matches. He continued to play for his Waitete club until 1975.
His status with New Zealanders was confirmed when his biography Colin Meads All Black sold a record 58,000 copies. An updated biography in 2002 also sold strongly.
Meads was never going to disappear from the rugby landscape.
He turned to administration and coaching at provincial level, and selected and coached North Island teams before being promoted on to the national selection panel in 1986.
The latter appointment was a brief one, though, because Meads decided to join the rebel Cavaliers tour of South Africa as coach. he was axed from the panel and for a time was persona non grata to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
In time he was forgiven and in 1992 he was elected on to the NZRU council and managed the All Blacks teams of 1994 and 1995.
He fell victim to an administrative revamp of the council in 1996 as professionalism pushed aside many links with the past.
Meads remained forthright in his opinions and was often sought out as a defender of the game's old values.
The public's fascination with Meads remained as insatiable as ever in his latter years.
He became front page news again in late 2007 when he sold his 102 hectare meat and wool farm so he and his wife Verna could move into town, all of 3.5km down the road to Te Kuiti.
He turned his hand to public speaking and advertising products on television, most famously tanalised fence posts, most infamously Provincial Finance.
When Provincial Finance failed, Meads was attacked as the public face of the company. He had described the company as "solid as, I'd say". He later said he regretted so many people lost money in the collapse.
"I wouldn't do it again because you're just a figurehead in the organisation and not involved in the day-to-day running of those sorts of things."
Meads received just about ever honour the game bestowed, including membership of the International Hall of Fame and the New Zealand Sporting Hall of Fame.
There was no debate in late 1999 when New Zealand Rugby Monthly magazine named him the New Zealand player of the century and in the 2001 New Year's Honours list he was made a New Zealand Companion of Merit.
In August 2016, it was announced that the rugby great had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Sir Colin's last major public appearance was in Te Kuiti in June, when a statue of the 81-year-old was unveiled on his hometown, a great occasion for one of the great rugby players.