All Blacks great Andy Haden is battling a cancer relapse and is "gravely ill".

The former lock, who played 117 matches and 41 tests for the All Blacks between 1972 and 1985, is considered one of the greats of the game. He also captained the All Blacks on eight occasions.

A spokesperson for the family told the Herald: "Andy is gravely ill and the family would appreciate that their privacy is respected at this difficult time".

In 2003 Haden, now 69, confirmed to the Herald on Sunday he had chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and was undergoing treatment.

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Andy Haden during his All Blacks playing days. Photosport
Andy Haden during his All Blacks playing days. Photosport

Haden played a part in one the All Blacks' most controversial wins in the 1978 test against Wales in Cardiff when he dived out of the lineout and gained a penalty for Brian McKechnie to kick the winning goal.

Haden says the idea developed as a remedy for the repeated obstruction the All Black jumpers faced throughout the tour and when he dived, referee Roger Quittendon told him he had penalised his marker, Alan Martin, for the foul.

After his rugby career he ran a celebrity management service, with clients including Kiwi supermodel Rachel Hunter.