In 2005, Jock Hobbs won New Zealand the right to host last year's Rugby World Cup.

The result left him looking stunned - an expression not often seen on the face of a man who, as a lawyer, the chairman of the NZRU and an All Black, often won and got what he wanted.

But emotion almost got the better of him and cameras showed him struggling not to cry. Hours later as he continued to take questions, his wife, Nicky, rewarded him with a beer.

It was Hobbs and co - including Prime Minister Helen Clark and All Black captain Tana Umaga - who drove home a message that the country could be a stadium of four million.


And it was a fitting win for the man whose lifelong commitment to the sport put him at some of the code's most important moments in the past two decades.

But with the cruellest of blows, he was later the same year diagnosed with leukaemia.

The son of a Wellington judge, he was born in 1960. Educated at Canterbury's Christ's College, Hobbs was a schoolboy contemporary of Australian coach Robbie Deans, also his wife's brother.

The pair had four children - Blues Super 15 rugby player Michael, Emily, Penny and Isabella.

Admitted to the bar in 1983, the same year he became an All Black flanker, he made appearances before his father, too, including as a duty solicitor.

A 21-test flanker, he debuted against the British and Irish Lions and captained the team to Fiji and Argentina before touring with the Cavaliers in 1986 to apartheid South Africa.

The rebel team was selected after the All Blacks' tour was stopped by court action. A series of concussions led to his retirement in 1987.

He ushered in professionalism, dismantling a rival competition's bid for an international competition in 1995 with a mixture of patience and steel.

For his troubles there was little thanks from the rugby powers that be. Provincial votes kept him off the new board a year later.

He expressed disappointment but not bitterness and pursued business interests until returning to the NZRU in 2002 as chairman. He stood down in 2010 because of his illness.

That he lived to see his World Cup - and with it the nation's great victory last year - will come as some comfort to those he leaves behind.