All Blacks legend Andy Haden has died at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

Haden died on Wednesday morning in Auckland. There will be a funeral service for Haden at Eden Park on Monday.

Last week, a spokesperson for the family confirmed to the Herald that he suffered a cancer relapse and was "gravely ill".

"Andy is gravely ill and the family would appreciate that their privacy is respected at this difficult time," they said last week.

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

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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.

Andy Haden has died aged 69.
Andy Haden has died aged 69.

Earlier this week former Wallabies lock Peter FitzSimons paid tribute to Haden, describing him as "a tower of strength''.

FitzSimons wrote in a regular newspaper column: "You were a tower of strength on the field and off it, and fought the good fight better than most.

"If any is equipped to 'Do not go gentle into that good night, and rage, rage, against the dying of the light, it is you."

Andy Haden has died aged 69. Photo / Photosport
Andy Haden has died aged 69. Photo / Photosport

FitzSimons recalled a clash with Haden in a 1984 match at Eden Park. The Australian believed he had "arrived to restore order, to put pesky All Blacks back in their box and send them home to their mothers''.

"And, sure enough, the first line-out was called to me, about 20 metres from our line,'' FitzSimons wrote.

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"Our hooker Lance Walker threw the ball in perfectly and, powered by the adrenalin of the moment, I soared much higher than my usual four centimetres and took the ball perfectly. I landed solidly, with a firm grip on the ball and held it out to [halfback] Nick Farr-Jones, without yet passing it.... Of course I paused, giving the TV cameras the crucial seconds necessary to compound his humiliation, and let everyone know that I had got it.

"At last, reluctantly, I was just about to give it to Nick when suddenly this big Andy Haden hand appeared between my legs and gave the ball a firm upward tap, meaning I had to watch as it neatly popped up over my shoulders, over the entire lineout and neatly into the hands of the Auckland halfback, David Kirk, on his way to launch a try, to being All Blacks captain and much later CEO of Fairfax.

"And that, friends, was my high-water mark against Andy Haden. It never got any better.''

Key role in controversial win

Andy Haden played 41 tests for the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Andy Haden played 41 tests for the All Blacks. Photo / 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.

All Black lock Andy Haden bursts through the tackle of Wallaby Peter Lucas against Australia in a 1982 victory.
All Black lock Andy Haden bursts through the tackle of Wallaby Peter Lucas against Australia in a 1982 victory.

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

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Haden was ranked as New Zealand's 14th greatest All Black by the Herald in a 2014 article by rugby writer Wynne Gray.

Haden in action in 1978.
Haden in action in 1978.