Wellington, Aug 8 (AFP/APP):New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined a galaxy of former All Blacks stars and thousands of other mourners to pay tribute to rugby icon Brian Lochore at his funeral Thursday.
Lochore, who died of cancer last weekend aged 78, played 68 games for the All Blacks, was captain in 18 Tests and coached the side to win the inaugural 1987 World Cup.
His funeral was held on a rugby field in the farming town of Masterton, where he first came to prominence as a rangy backrower.
“He was a legend, a man of huge stature not only in the world of rugby but in New Zealand. It feels only fitting that I pay my respects,” Ardern said.
Lochore’s black coffin was carried into the ground adorned with a silver fern and accompanied by the strains of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Vicar Steve Thompson said the rugby great had requested a “farmer’s funeral” with a few prayers, a hymn and some of his good mates to speak.
He reportedly said on his deathbed that he did not want his funeral to disrupt the All Blacks preparations for this weekend’s Test against Australia in Perth.
All Blacks manager Gilbert Enoka, who flew back for the funeral, told mourners the players will honour Lochore by wearing his All Blacks number 637 on their jerseys.
“He poured charisma into common sense. What a skill, what a man, what an influence,” Enoka said.
“He was a living example of the fact that you don’t need to have academic degrees to have knowledge and wisdom — he had these qualities in spades.”
Former All Blacks Ian Kirkpatrick and Wayne Smith were among the pallbearers carrying the coffin from the ground to a private funeral service.
Also among the mourners were 1987 World Cup winning captain David Kirk, Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Tane Norton, Grant Fox and Michael Jones.