Richard White, one of the great All Black forwards, was 86 when he died on Saturday and left to join Dave Gallaher and Maurice Brownlie and the other All Black legends.

Compared with the giants of 21st century professional rugby White might not have cast a long shadow, but in his playing days his tall, craggy frame - which stood 1.88m and weighed 100kg - placed him in the XXOS group, thus entitling him to the ironic nickname "Tiny".

White also stood out because of his remarkable stamina, especially in the lineout and the heavy tight-forward play.

He played 55 times for the All Blacks between 1949 and 1956. In his book on the All Blacks tour to the United Kingdom and France in 1953-54, Terry McLean was staggered that White managed to maintain his fitness and eagerness through 30 of the 36 tour matches.

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After volunteering to join the Occupational Force to Japan, White returned to his native Gisborne and won an ex-serviceman's ballot for a 485ha sheep farm near Gisborne.

His rugby career ended painfully. In the closing minutes of the 1956 Eden Park epic which led to the 3-1 test rubber win against the Springboks, White was cruelly kicked in the lower spine by a South African who thought he was Kevin Skinner, a player the Boks did not cherish.

White's ashen-faced dramatic and painful exit came just before the finish of the test.

After a long farming career White - still the Poverty Bay hero and patriot - moved into club rugby organisation and then to local body work and eventually became mayor of Gisborne.

He had a keen sense of humour, and sometimes relaxed ... and then relaxed some more. McLean's favourite Tiny White story came when the 1953-54 All Blacks were off duty. White was more off than the rest, and somehow transmuted his character to that of Ed Hillary. "Where are the flags, Tensing - just one more hill to climb, Tensing."

They put him to bed, White/Hillary slept like a child and next morning refused to believe his heroics of the previous evening.