New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew has defended the incumbent All Blacks' absence from Sir Colin Meads' funeral.

Meads, who played 133 games for New Zealand, was honoured at a service in Te Kuiti on Monday. The occasion was attended by many of rugby's biggest names.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster and selector Grant Fox were among the congregation, but none of the playing personnel were understood to be present.

"Funerals are very personal things," Tew said, when asked whether it was a policy or personal choice for the team.

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"I'm surprised by that criticism. New Zealand Rugby was well represented [at the occasion] and during the service the family thanked us personally for the support we've been able to offer."

Tew noted the All Blacks had worn Sir Colin's number - 583 - on their jerseys for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Dunedin and Sam Whitelock's No 5 jersey was presented to the Meads family as a mark of respect.

"The guys thought about Colin long and hard during the week," Tew said.

"Most wouldn't have known him, because he was a generation away, so there was some work done to let them know of his contribution and what he achieved.

"I'm comfortable that those of us who wanted to be at his funeral and pay respects did so, and those that didn't, did it in another way."​