Tributes flood in for All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads

World Rugby led global tributes on Sunday to All Blacks great Colin Meads who has died aged 81 following a year-long battle with cancer.

Tributes flood in for All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads
Hannah Peters Getty Images

World Rugby led tributes from across the world on Sunday in memory of All Blacks great Sir Colin Meads who has died aged 81 following a year-long battle with cancer.

Meads hardman image

The legendary hardman, with a reputation for training by running up hills with a sheep under each arm, played 133 games, including 55 Tests, during his 14 years with the All Blacks until his retirement in 1971. He was feared on the field and revered off it, known affectionately by his nickname 'Pinetree' and recognized around the world as the face of New Zealand rugby.

“World Rugby is saddened by loss of @AllBlacks legend Sir Colin Meads. Our thoughts are with the Meads family and New Zealand Rugby family”, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper tweeted.

Colin Meads pictured signing autographs for school children during the All Blacks visit to Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, 1995.

New Zealand pays tribute to Meads

Throughout New Zealand, people placed rugby balls outside the front door of their homes in a show of respect to the man named New Zealand Rugby's player of the 20th century. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was an “incredibly sad time” adding “his achievements in the black jersey are part of the All Blacks legacy and his loss will be felt by rugby people all over the world".

The current All Blacks captain Kieran Read said: “This is an incredibly sad day. Sir Colin was an icon of our game. I met him a few times and he was always keen to share a beer and have a yarn”. While another All Blacks great Bryan Williams, said he was “completely overawed” when in the company of Meads.

New Zealand's Colin Meads pictured after a game against the British Lions from May 1971.

Meads, one of the greatest All Blacks in history

As former team mates, opponents and fans took to social media to share their memories of Meads, former Wallabies lock Peter Fitzsimmons rated him “with Jonah Lomu, one of the two greatest All Blacks”, recalling former All Blacks wing Lomu who died two years ago from a kidney condition.

Former New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter took to Twitter to express his sadness. “Such sad news to wake up to today. An Honor to have met him on many occasions. RIP Sir Colin Meads!” Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick, now a respected pundit, said Meads had played a pivotal role in his career. “So sad to wake up to the news that Sir Colin has died. He had such an influence on my life and many others. RIP Tree Love to Verna & family” the 54-year-old tweeted.

South Africa Rugby issued a fulsome tribute to Meads, who played against them 10 times, declaring, “Sir Colin Meads, New Zealand's player of the 20th century - and one of the greatest of any nation of all time”.

New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey said Meads left an unrivalled mark on the game. “Sir Colin is an icon of rugby and New Zealand. Uncompromising on the field, his exploits are that of folklore, while he was just as revered off the field”.