Legendary former All Black Sir Colin Meads has died aged 81

Legendary former All Black Sir Colin Meads has passed away, aged 81.

The former All Black had been ill for the past few months and was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last August.

Sir Colin will leave behind a legacy as one of our very best rugby players.

However the man nicknamed 'Pinetree', because of his physical size and strength, was much more than that. For many New Zealanders he was the quintessential Kiwi: stoic, steadfast, and dependable.

In an interview before he died, he said: "I do recollect actually playing and starting, and saying well now I'm an All Black and from there on I made a statement -  that it's one thing to be an All Black, it's another thing to be a good one."

And a rugby-mad country did depend on him, as he wore the black jersey 133 times in his 15-year career in the All Blacks.

"Well the best moment is when you're first picked. Just to become an All Black and to just get to play for the All Blacks," he said. "That's the greatest moment when you're first selected and your name's read out. It's a real shock and it's a great thrill."

The Te Kuiti farmer was a hard man, known as an enforcer. After being sent from the field in one international for dangerous play, Britain's The Telegraph said that given Sir Colin's reputation for robust play, it was like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence.

Mind you, it took a lot to make Pinetree leave the field. He famously played with a broken arm against Eastern Transvaal in South Africa, and as he was being attended to after the game his only comment was "at least we won the bloody game".

His devotion to his teammates made him immensely popular and forged friendships for life.

"There's always characters in every team. You think of Monkey Briscoe, Waka and all those boys and they're all great mates and we had great times and you'd often think back to them," he said. "I wonder if they have the fun we used to have, because I don't think they do nowadays."

Life after rugby for Sir Colin wasn't always easy, but the amateur rugby player did find some small fortune to go with his fame though as an unlikely star of television commercials.

When knighthoods were reintroduced in 2009, Sir Colin was an obvious candidate.

However, he said he didn't want to be called a Sir like fellow All Blacks Sir Wilson Whineray and Sir Brian Lochore - they, he said, were perfect gentlemen and deserved the title whereas he, in his words, was a bit rougher.

Sir Colin leaves behind his wife and five children.