The manager of this year’s British & Irish Lions and a member of the 1971 Lions, John Spencer, told the All Blacks’ official website: “We pride ourselves with the Lions on being the best of the best, and there is no doubt that Colin Meads was the best, of any era and of any country.
“He stood for everything that is great about New Zealand rugby, he was an All Black through and through.
“On the field his presence, his spirit of adventure and his aggression were legendary – if he was playing then you can bet that he was the key part of every opposition team talk.
“And off the field he was a great character – he represents the core values of the game, but it is his respect and friendship in particular that stood out for me.”
South African Rugby president Mark Alexander said, “He was arguably the best of our best and fiercest rivals in the 20th century and everyone in every rugby community in our country was aware of Colin ‘Pinetree’ Meads.
“He achieved legendary status even while still playing and his reputation for ferocious and fearless play was the epitome of what New Zealand rugby stands for in South Africa.”
In its obituary, The Times (London) said: “Meads was a magnificent rugby footballer, a rampaging giant of a player. His character was summed up by a teammate who became a leading headmaster and was himself knighted, [the late] Sir John Graham: ‘Colin Meads is a humble man, a man of action rather than a talker about his actions, yet he is always the unofficial adviser, guide, assistant and leader of any All Black party outside the official leaders of the side. Meads does not seek this position, the rest of the team simply place him in it’.
“…He developed a close friendship with [Sir] Wilson Whineray, arguably New Zealand’s greatest captain and a far more worldly wise character than Meads. On one flight to the US, Meads was filling in the landing card that asked whether the bearer had ever indulged in subversive behaviour and he sought clarification. ‘It means getting into trouble, just tick the no box,’ Whineray said. ‘But I belong to the King Country rugby team and we get into a hell of a lot of trouble,’ Meads responded.
The French sports newspaper L’Equipe said: “He was an excellent ball gatherer despite a relatively modest size (1.92m) for a lock. He took advantage of his sense of timing and gigantic hands to reign in the lineout. Between 1964 and 1967, he was the figurehead of a pack lead by the pillar Wilson Whineray and then the number eight Brian Lochore.
“The invincibility of the All Blacks of that time was served by the famous rule of the 3Ps (position, possession and pace, along with conquest and rhythm) invented by Charlie Saxton and implemented by coach Fred Allen: 16 victories and one draw! It was not until 2016 that this record was beaten.”