Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks - 1st XV: No 4 Colin Meads

Colin Meads never felt intimidated on the rugby field and never backed away from a joust in his years as a coach and administrator.

For 15 years the All Black lock accumulated his legendary global reputation as his considerable athletic powers topped with a fair degree of menace, dealt to most opponents.

Off the field Meads was not quite so assertive.

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In one test against Wales in 1963, Meads chased an up and under and buried Welsh halfback Clive Rowlands who was the brave but injured recipient.

"I caught him a beaut and the crowd was booing and (Kel) Tremain was telling me not come near the rest of the team."

Afterwards Wilson Whineray suggested to Meads he should apologise but as the lock wandered towards the Welsh dressing room, the sight and sounds of Rowlands' wife and several other agitated women, sent the All Blacks lock scurrying back to his changing room.

Four years later Meads was aghast and thought his career was over when he was ordered off Murrayfield for dangerous play.

He was on a caution for over vigorous rucking "though I was only one of seven or eight that did it" and when Meads fly hacked a ball into a Scots player, their hooker yelled the house down about the atrocity.

Meads famously wrestled with his own injuries like the broken arm in South Africa in 1970. When a sideline medic suggested it might only be a pinched nerve Meads shot back into the fray.

"But I couldn't grip the poor prop and played on but as soon as I had it x-rayed afterwards it was broken," he said.

Back home the next year Meads captained the All Blacks to a series loss against the Lions and although he recovered from a serious back injury after a land-drover accident late that year, he never played for the All Blacks again.

Meads played a couple of matches against the All Blacks in 1973 as New Zealand paid homage to the man known as Pinetree after the nickname was bestowed on him by Taranaki hooker Roger Boon.

It was a career where the "country hick" as Meads described himself, absorbed and appreciated all sorts of life lessons he gleaned from Whineray.

"He was the perfect gentleman, he helped a lot of rough fellas like me from the sticks," Meads said. "We were great friends-the learned gentleman and the country hick."

Meads was happiest on the field when he could influence play but he has a full diary these days on the speaking circuit, here and abroad.

He marvels at the production and quality of the rugby from Richie McCaw and would have loved to have been reared in the modern game with its emphasis on continuity.

Meads gets consistent delight from watching and discussing rugby but is bewildered by some of the rules and is not a huge fan of the regimented patterns.

He loves the ITM Cup as much as tests and when he is home in Te Kuiti, a vegetable garden, extended family and a second TV tuned to the rugby, fill ideal days for Meads.

Statistics
Date of birth: 3 June 1936
Position: Lock
Matches: 133
Tests: 55
Test debut: 25 May 1957 v Australia, Sydney
Last test: 14 August 1971 v British & Irish Lions, Auckland
Province: King Country
Test tries: 7
Test points: 21

- NZ Herald

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