All Blacks great Meads dies aged 81

All Blacks great Colin Meads, New Zealand's Player of the 20th Century, died at the age of 81 after a battle with cancer.

Meads was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August last year.

Having played 55 Tests for the All Blacks from 1957-71, Meads is considered one of the greatest players in history. He was named the nation's Player of the Century in 1999.

"This is a sad day for New Zealand rugby and for New Zealand," the country's prime minister Bill English said on Sunday.

"I have had the privilege of getting to know Sir Colin. He was not only a great All Black but also a genuinely good New Zealand bloke.

"He represented what it means to be a New Zealander. He was no-nonsense, reliable, hardworking, warm and very generous with his time."

A former All Blacks captain, Meads was a permanent fixture in New Zealand's squad from 1957 onwards, making 133 appearances in total for his nation.

He went into coaching and administration after his playing career and was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame and New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

Meads is survived by wife Verna and five children.

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