Special Honours: Sir Brian Lochore

By Mike Houlahan

Four special appointments have been made to the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honour. See here who they are.

All Blacks great Sir Brian Lochore, who coached New Zealand to their only rugby World Cup win, last night spoke of his delight at being appointed to the Order of New Zealand.

Sir Brian made his All Blacks debut in 1963 and played 25 tests for New Zealand, 18 as captain, with just three losses.

Sir Brian said he was stunned to learn of the honour and not initially aware it was a new achievement in sporting circles.

"I wasn't aware of that, but obviously it was a bolt from the blue," he said.

"I was absolutely shocked to get the honour.

"I am not a selector and I wouldn't have selected myself if I had been - not by a bloody long shot."

He said he wasn't sure how he would celebrate the award but added it would be with his family. "I've never really given any awards any consideration my entire life.

"To get an OBE when I was still playing was overwhelming.

"You can't go and ask the public to support you: you have to win them over," he said. "You have to demonstrate that they are going to be proud of you, and that's the only way you can actually win their support."

In more than 40 years of service to rugby in particular, sport in general, and to the Wairarapa, Sir Brian has been warmly thanked for his efforts.

Rugby has honoured him: teams in the Heartland competition play for the Lochore Cup, and he has received the International Rugby Board's Vernon Pugh Award for distinguished service.

Sir Brian, 66, made his first representative rugby team as a schoolboy, picked after a trial in which he does not remember touching the ball. He went on to make many other rep teams, culminating with his 1963 All Blacks debut.

Sir Brian played 43 games for the All Blacks, including the 25 tests. His last match saw him come out of retirement in 1971 to play against the Lions. He famously left a note on the kitchen table for his wife Pam: "Gone to Wellington. Playing test tomorrow."

"That is a very true story, but there was a lot under the surface that didn't get printed at that time," Sir Brian said.

"It almost sounded as if I was sitting by the phone waiting, but it wasn't like that at all. They had a series of injuries and no captain ... I did what was best for New Zealand, really. I don't think that has ever really changed."

Sir Brian, a farmer, coached the tiny Wairarapa Bush union into the first division, and was All Blacks coach from 1985 to 1987.

His tenure ended after winning the inaugural World Cup.

"We played attractive rugby," Sir Brian said.

"That was the way we wanted to play it, but also we needed to show the New Zealand people that we were there for real and we were going to play rugby they could be proud of."

Of the modern game, he said: "There have been a few changes in direction and a few changes in rules, but the physical and mental requirements are still exactly the same."

Away from rugby, Sir Brian has been involved with many organisations, including the Hillary Commission, Halberg Trust, farming groups, and local schools.

Sir Brian said support from his community had been a vital part of his life.

"I've never lived anywhere else and I don't intend to," he said.

"The Wairarapa has been good to me, and I hope I've contributed to making it a better area in my own small way."

With another World Cup on the horizon, Sir Brian is still associated with the All Blacks, now as a selector.

"The players are very respectful," he said. "They've been great to me and I've enjoyed their company. I don't know they've enjoyed my company, but I've certainly enjoyed theirs. I've enjoyed watching them grow as people, and if we can finish this deal off it will be really nice."

New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs noted: "Sir Brian epitomises the personal qualities we admire most in New Zealanders."

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