Rugby: All Blacks legend Andy Haden dies, aged 69

All Blacks great Andy Haden - the man best known for THAT dive - has passed away at the age of 69, after a long fight with cancer.

Haden, a 1.99m lock forward, played 117 games for New Zealand, including 41 tests, between 1972-85.

Off the field, he became a manager and agent for Kiwi celebrities like Rachel Hunter and Charlotte Dawson.

But Haden is probably best known for some of NZ sport's most controversial moments, including a lineout 'flop' that many credit for winning a test against Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in 1978.

With six minutes left on the clock and the Welsh leading by two points, Haden threw himself from a lineout in an outrageous bid to draw a game-winning penalty.

The ploy seemed to work perfectly, with referee Roger Quittenton duly blowing his whistle and signalling for the penalty, which fullback Brian McKechnie stepped up to kick for victory.

Andy Haden 'dives' from a lineout against Wales
Andy Haden 'dives' from a lineout against Wales. Photo credit: Photosport

While Haden was roundly accused of cheating, many overlooked the fact that fellow lock Frank Oliver was actually pushed from the front of the lineout, which was the offence Quittenton claimed to penalise. 

"No-one has more respect for the All Blacks than me, but that was a disgrace," Wales centre Steve Fenwick told The Rugby Paper in 2016. "The closest thing I've seen to soccer on a rugby field."

Haden claimed the Welsh had impeded the All Blacks jumpers throughout the tour, but the tactic of diving had been discussed at training and the opportunity arose with the test slipping away.

Captain Graham Mourie had related a story about Taranaki lock Ian Eliason outfoxing Colin Meads in similar fashion during a provincial game.

During an injury break, the plan was hatched.

"I said to Mourie that we were going to use that tactic he had brought up at training and I told Frank that we were going to do it," Haden told Stuff in 2018.

"He gave me a nod and Mourie just rolled his eyes... he knew it was going to happen.

"Before the ball was thrown in, [the ref] moved around past us and around the back to the other side. He could obviously see all their players, but he couldn't see us.

"That's the reason [the dive] was quite a theatrical performance, to make sure we got his attention."

Andy Haden at 2001 All Blacks training
Andy Haden at 2001 All Blacks training. Photo credit: Photosport

Haden captained the All Blacks eight times and played his final test against Argentina in 1985, but his international career ended, when he was part of the Cavaliers rebel tour to South Africa the following year, serving as midweek captain.

In 2003, he announced he was beginning chemotherapy for chronic lymphcytic leukaemia.

But Haden was again in the news in 2010, when he had to resign his role as Rugby World Cup ambassador, after claiming the Crusaders selected their Super Rugby team under a racial quota and referring to Polynesians as "darkies".

NZ Rugby president and former All Blacks teammate Bill Osbourne says Haden was an exceptional player, whose impact on the game stretched well beyond his playing days.

"Andy’s stature and influence as a player was huge," says Osbourne. 

"Not only was he an immense physical presence, there was also immense respect from his teammates.

"Most people will remember the way he dominated the lineout as a tower of strength, but I also remember the way he looked after the young players coming into the All Blacks, and how he advocated for players' rights both during and after his playing career."

Haden's remarkable tenure made him one of rugby's most recognisable figures, adds NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

"His contribution as a player for Ponsonby, Auckland and the All Blacks was massive over a long period of time and he will be remembered by those who saw him play as one of the true greats of our game," says Robinson.