All Blacks legend Sir Colin Meads died Sunday aged 81 after a long battle with cancer, New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.
Meads, widely known by his nickname “Pinetree” was regarded as one of the greatest players of the game and is in World Rugby Hall of Fame.
Prime Minister Bill English said it was a sad day not only for New Zealand rugby but for the country.
Meads was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August last year.
The tough lock played 133 matches for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971, and became recognised throughout the world as the face of New Zealand rugby.
“He was not only a great All Black but also a genuinely good New Zealand bloke,” English said.
“He represented what it means to be a New Zealander. He was no-nonsense, reliable, hardworking, warm and very generous with his time.
“I remember when I was younger hearing stories about how he used to shear sheep all day and go running at night.”
Meads’ youngest daughter Shelley Mitchell said her father “led a full life. He loved being an All Black and he loved his family dearly. We will miss him terribly.”
Meads is survived by his wife Verna, their five children, 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.