Former All Blacks teammate Sir Bryan Williams pays tribute to Sir Brian Lochore

All Blacks great Sir Bryan 'Beegee' Williams has described former teammate Sir Brian Lochore one of New Zealand's most influential rugby figures ever.

Sir Brian died on Saturday, aged 78, after a battle with bowel cancer.

Bryan Williams debuted for the All Blacks under Lochore's captaincy, and from there they grew as teammates and close friends.

"We've lost an absolute icon," Sir Bryan told Newshub. "All the things he managed to do - player, coach, administrator, manager and patron - he's done it all.

"I don't think there's anyone who's made a bigger contribution to New Zealand rugby than BJ Lochore."

Lochore played 68 games for New Zealand - including 25 tests - between 1964-71. He captaining the team 18 times, winning 15 and losing three (all to South Africa).

"He grew into the role [of captain]," said Williams. "It was probably always within him.

"He became an absolute inspirational choice as captain and went on to a great leadership career."

After his playing career, Lochore went on to coach the All Blacks to victory in the 1987 Rugby World Cup final.

Williams described Lochore as warm and approachable, someone who had the ability to relate to anyone.

"He was a people person,"Williams added. "He could mix with royalty and he could mix with the plebs.

"He just had a great ability to get along with everyone. In a macho game like rugby, it's aggressive it's hard, but he just had this wonderful humility and ability to get on with people."

Lochore inspired a generation on the field, but was just as successful off it. He was knighted in 1999 and inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame the same year.

"He was a very giving person and if people wanted him to help out, he would put his hand up.

"Chairing the Hillary Commission and so many other committees after such a wonderful career, he's an absolute gem of NZ and we've lost a great one."