Proud day for rugby giant

Sir Colin Meads was well enough to attend the unveiling yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Sir Colin Meads was well enough to attend the unveiling yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
King Country's most famous son and arguably New Zealand's greatest rugby player did not want a big fuss made - but he got one anyway.

A big crowd - including several All Black greats and representatives from the touring British and Irish Lions - were present when the 2.7m bronze statue of Sir Colin Meads was unveiled in his home town Te Kuiti yesterday afternoon.

The main street, Rora St, was closed to cater for the influx of locals, visitors, Meads family and media.

While there was a chance the now-frail 81-year-old might not make it to the unveiling, in true Meads style, he played down the occasion.

"I can't really live up to all these great tributes everyone is making,'' the 133-game All Black told the crowd, "because I'm not as fit as I used to be.

"When it was originally raised, I thought it was ridiculous, but now it's come to fruition, I feel proud and honoured.''

Sir Colin said it was wonderful former All Blacks and mates Sir Brian Lochore, Bryan Williams and Tane Norton were in attendance. The ceremony was hosted by Keith Quinn.

Sir Colin, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, unveiled the statue with his brother Stan, with whom there is also a special Meads Brothers Exhibition under way in the North Island town.

Earlier, Sir Brian said the statue was fitting for a man who was a legend, on and off the field, and "what a friend and what a foe he has been''.

"I played in every test with him but one, when he broke his arm in South Africa [in 1970], and he was an inspiration and incredible help to me when I became captain.''

Manager of the touring British and Irish Lions John Spencer said it was a privilege to be in Te Kuiti alongside "perhaps the greatest warrior of rugby''.

The tribute to Sir Colin was driven by the town's Legendary Te Kuiti committee and funded by sponsors, donations and grants. 

Lions 'in with a show'

Sir Colin believed the British and Irish Lions' odds of winning the first test have shortened dramatically after their emphatic 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks.

The Lions play Super Rugby side the Chiefs in Hamilton tonight in their final warm-up before the first test against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.

Defeats to the Blues in Auckland and Highlanders in Dunedin had heaped pressure on Lions coach Warren Gatland, but Sir Colin said yesterday the victory against the Maori All Blacks showed the visitors had a chance in the three-test series against the world champions.

"After last Saturday, they've got a good show. I'd say from 70-30 (in favour of the All Blacks) it's gone to about 55-45 now.

"I wouldn't want to put my house on (the result)."

Sir Colin, who faced the Lions in 1959, 1966 and 1971, and is nicknamed 'Pinetree', is regarded by many in New Zealand as the nation's greatest player.

A renowned enforcer, he played a then-record 55 tests for the All Blacks and was captain during the 1971 Lions series - the only time the Lions won on New Zealand soil.

- NZN and Reuters 


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