Rugby: Shock and sadness at Drake's death

The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) today expressed shock and sadness at the sudden death of former All Blacks John Drake yesterday at the age of 49.

Drake, a member of the New Zealand team who won the 1987 World Cup, died in Mt Maunganui.

Reports today said Drake collapsed and died of a heart attack while cleaning his swimming pool.

A tighthead prop, Drake played 12 games for the All Blacks including eight tests, and was a member of the record setting Auckland and All Blacks teams of the mid1980s.

Making his All Blacks debut age 26 on a tour to Argentina in 1985, he made his test debut against France in 1986.

NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs said his organisation and the rugby community were deeply shocked and saddened by the news.

Our immediate thoughts are with his wife Cathy and their three children, who have lost a husband and father much too early in life,Hobbs said.

On behalf of all the rugby community I would like to extend my deepest sympathies.

Following his rugby career, Drake continued to contribute to the game through scrum coaching and more recently as a television commentator with Sky Television and as a columnist and radio rugby analyst.

He excelled in the media field, offering a relaxed, coherent insight not always obvious from former players.

His loss will be keenly felt by his former teammates at club, provincial and international level, and by his colleagues at Sky Television and in the media, Hobbs said.

He was an astute commentator on the game whose immense knowledge and wry wit will be greatly missed.

Drake was educated at Auckland Grammar School but played his first club rugby in Dunedin and turned out for Otago juniors and New Zealand Universities.

Much of Drake's development as a prop and as a scrum analyst came from his considerable experience in the early to mid1980s playing the off season in France.

He was summoned from France to make his All Blacks debut because of injuries to the props on the tour of Argentina and arrived to play one game against Mar del Plata.

He was a group of late developers who provided much of the steel to the 1987 All Blacks' World Cup winning squad.

With Auckland during the 1985-87 seasons Drake, Sean Fitzpatrick at hooker and Steve McDowell gradually developed into a mighty front row unit and they were to be a major contributing factor to the success of 1987. He played in five tests at the World Cup, missing only the opening roundrobin match against Italy.

That was to be his last year with the All Blacks.

He was left behind when what was termed an official All Blacks team was sent on a tour to Japan in 1988, something that may have been a factor in his retirement soon afterwards aged 28.

- NZPA

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