Andy Haden, who has died of leukaemia aged 69, was one of the biggest, toughest and most controversial of All Black forwards, winning 117 caps for New Zealand between 1972 and 1985 (41 in Tests) and captaining his country eight times; but his reputation was overshadowed by accusations of cheating on the field and racist and sexist remarks off it.
The incident that will always be associated with his name took place in Cardiff in 1978. Wales were leading New Zealand 12-10 in the dying minutes of the match and on the verge of their first victory over the All Blacks since 1953.
As the ball was thrown into a line-out Haden dived dramatically out of it on to the ground, pretending he had been pushed, and the referee awarded a penalty against Wales that robbed them of victory. His friend Frank Oliver also fell to the ground in a pre-arranged manoeuvre.
The English referee, Roger Quittenton, maintained that he was not fooled by Haden's dive and that the penalty was awarded for another Welsh offence. But nobody believed that, including Haden himself, who confessed that his dive had been prepared with the knowledge of Oliver and the captain, Graham Mourie.
He showed no repentance over the incident, saying: "I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you want to win a Test, you've got to do it in any way you can."
Relations between the two countries were restored, to some degree at least, at a match two years later to mark the centenary of the Welsh Rugby Football Union. A cake was made showing the two sides lined up in the previous match. Haden and Oliver sneaked in before the dinner to move the two of them to a recumbent position in memory of their infamous dives. Wales have still not beaten the All Blacks since 1953.
Andrew Maxwell Haden was born at Whanganui on New Zealand's North Island on October 26 1950 and educated at Whanganui College. At 20 he joined the Ponsonby club in Auckland and was to play for them around 200 times over 16 years, helping them to win the Gallaher Shield and the club championship seven times. He played 157 times for Auckland, leading them to victory in the Ranfurly Shield in 1985.
He was chosen to tour Australia with a junior New Zealand squad in 1971 and then for the senior tour to the British Isles in 1972. He played only one club match and no Tests on the tour, and was written off by the selectors as a mouthy young tearaway. Five years passed before he wore an All Black jersey again.
After falling out with Auckland officials in 1974 and realising that he was out of favour with the national selectors, Haden brought forward his marriage to Trecha, known as Trish, and the couple set off for Europe, where he played for a French club, Tarbes, and exulted in the excitement and enthusiasm of French rugby compared with what he called the "suppressive atmosphere" of New Zealand rugby. He was to use his knowledge of French as the team's on-field interpreter on two future tours.
The couple, who were free spirits, then settled in Rome, from where he would fly to England to play for Harlequins on a Saturday and return to play for Algida Roma on the Sunday. When he went home in 1976, "he came back harder, stronger, fitter and more tough-minded," according to a leading New Zealand sportswriter.
Even though he played outstanding rugby for Auckland he was left out of the All Blacks tour to South Africa as a punishment for his 18 months in exile. Instead, he had a storming domestic season and was declared Player of the Year, making himself indispensable to the All Blacks for the British and Irish Lions tour in 1977.
New Zealand won the Test series 3-1, Haden scoring his first international try in the third Test and becoming an automatic choice until his retirement. One writer said: "To beat the All Blacks in the next eight years you had to beat Haden first – easy to say, but very hard to do."
At 6ft 6in and nearly 19 stone, he was not only a towering presence at the line-out but powerful in the scrum and lively around the field for such a big man. Murray Mexted, a fellow All Black, said: "Andy turned the line-out into an art form. He had an inquisitive mind, always looking for ways of doing things better."
His technique was to stand outside the line and leap to the centre and forward when the ball was thrown in, giving him a clear jump in front of his marker.
The concept of "player welfare", now a big issue in world rugby, did not exist in Haden's time. But he made it his business to raise it with the game's officials, putting himself frequently at odds with them. As Mexted put it: "He challenged authority and authority didn't like it." John Hart, Haden's coach at Auckland and later for the All Blacks, said he was "a strong advocate for players' rights".
This made him immensely popular with his playing colleagues who, according to Mourie, called him their "Minister of Lurks and Perks". In that amateur era the players had to beg for expenses for their kit, transport or meals, and Haden became their shop steward. Although he negotiated on their behalf with a great sense of humour, Mourie said: "He didn't see a controversy he didn't like."
His forthright comments to the media also irked the powers that be. But Mexted said of him: "His gentle nature off the paddock belied his competitive nature on it."
Mourie said Haden was "the first true professional". He trained like a pro and made no secret of his belief that players should be paid a share of the profits made from the game. He said he wanted to be rugby's first millionaire.
Again this set him against the authorities, who saw it as their duty to resist any sign of professionalism. When asked to put his occupation on any travel form, Haden annoyed them by always writing "itinerant rugby player", refusing to pretend he was anything else.
His battles came to a head when he wrote a bestselling book, Boots'n'All, which the authorities denounced as professionalism. He won the case by arguing that he was a writer. It was to be 10 years after his playing career had ended that rugby went officially professional.
After his retirement he went into business with a former Auckland colleague, Kevin Ramsey, setting up a management agency for rugby players and other celebrities. One of his clients was Rachel Hunter, a New Zealand supermodel who married Rod Stewart.
For the 2011 Rugby World Cup, played in New Zealand, Haden was nominated as a RWC ambassador, but he caused a controversy by saying on television that there was a colour bar in some clubs, which had a strict quota for people he called "darkies" from the Polynesian nations such as Samoa and Tonga.
He added to the controversy in another debate about women who stalk sportsmen, saying that they were partly responsible if they were raped. His ambassadorial role was put in jeopardy when he was criticised by the then New Zealand Prime Minister, John Kay. He resigned and was later reinstated.
In 2003 Haden announced that he had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. He died when the disease recurred 17 years later. His funeral at Eden Park in Auckland, scene of many of his triumphs, was attended by the aristocracy of All Black rugby – a testament to his support among players of several generations, though his outspokenness and his contempt for officialdom may account for the fact that, unlike other New Zealand stars of his ability, he was denied a knighthood.
He leaves a widow, a son and a daughter.
Andy Haden, born October 26 1950, died July 29 2020