Colin Meads - New Zealand - New Zealand Caps 1957-1971

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 07 April 1971

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      Wednesday, 03 June 1936
      Cambridge, New Zealand. Died 20th August 2017. Aged 81.
  • New Zealand
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Colin MEADS - New Zealand - New Zealand Caps 1957-1971

Career Record: Played 55, Won 42, Drew 3, Lost 10.

Test Points: 21 Tries: 7.

Meads was widely considered one of the greatest players in history.

Nicknamed 'Pinetree', he was an icon within New Zealand rugby

and was named the country's Player of the Century at the NZRFU Awards in 1999.

In August 2016 it was announced that Meads had been diagnosed with pancreatic

cancer following several months of illness.

He died on 20th. August 2017, as a result of the cancer, at the age of 81.


1957 v Australia (Sydney) W 25-11

1957 v Australia (Brisbane) W 22-9


1958 v Australia (Wellington) W 25-3
1958 v Australia (Christchurch) L 6-3

1958 v Australia (Auckland) W 17-8


1959 v British Lions (Dunedin) W 18-17
1959 v British Lions (Wellington) W 11-8
1959 v British Lions (Christchurch) W 22-8
1959 v British Lions (Auckland) L 9-6

1960 v South Africa (Johannesburg) L 13-0

1960 v South Africa (Cape Town) W 11-3
1960 v South Africa (Bloemfontein) D 11-11

1960 v South Africa (Port Elizabeth) L 8-3


1961 v France (Auckland) W 13-6
1961 v France (Wellington) W 5-3

1961 v France (Christchurch) W 32-3


1962 v Australia (Brisbane) W 20-6
1962 v Australia (Sydney) W 14-5
1962 v Australia (Wellington) D 9-9

1962 v Australia (Auckland) W 16-8


1963 v England (Auckland) W 21-11
1963 v England (Christchurch) W 9-6
1963 v Ireland (Dublin) W 6-5

1963 v Wales (Cardiff) W 6-0


1964 v England (Twickenham) W 14-0
1964 v Scotland (Murrayfield) D 0-0
1964 v France (Paris) W 12-3
1964 v Australia (Dunedin) W 14-9
1964 v Australia (Christchurch) W 18-3
1964 v Australia (Wellington) L 20-5

1965 v South Africa (Wellington) W 6-3

1965 v South Africa (Dunedin) W 13-0

1965 v South Africa (Christchurch) L 19-16

1965 v South Africa (Auckland) W 20-3


1966 v British Isles (Dunedin) W 20-3
1966 v British Isles (Wellington) W 16-12
1966 v British Isles (Christchurch) W 19-6

1966 v British Isles (Auckland) W 24-11


1967 v Australia (Wellington) W 29-9
1967 v England (Twickenham) W 23-11
1967 v Wales (Cardiff) W 13-6
1967 v France (Colombes) W 21-15

1967 v Scotland (Murrayfield) W 14-3


1968 v Australia (Sydney) W 27-11
1968 v Australia (Brisbane) W 19-18
1968 v France (Christchurch) W 12-9
1968 v France (Wellington) W 9-3

1968 v France (Auckland) W 19-12


1969 v Wales (Christchurch) W 19-0

1969 v Wales (Auckland) W 33-12


1970 v South Africa (Port Elizabeth) L 14-3

1970 v South Africa (Joburg) L 20-17


1971 v British Lions (Dunedin) L 9-3
1971 v British Lions (Christchurch) W 22-12
1971 v British Lions (Wellington) L 13-3
1971 v British Lions (Auckland) D 14-14






New Zealand fans could debate for hours about who is the greatest ever All Black. Carefully planned arguments could be drawn up for a whole host of players ranging from George Nepia in the 1920s to Sean Fitzpatrick in the modern era. It would probably be much simpler to scrub them all out and simply write down one name: Colin 'Pinetree' Meads. In a fourteen year career spanning from 1957 to 1971, Meads symbolised the power and dominance of New Zealand rugby in a way that no other player has ever done, either before or since. By modern lineout standards, Meads was no giant, standing only 6' 4", but this was perhaps an advantage, allowing him greater dynamism around the paddock.


Legend has it that his training involved running through the hills of his farm with a ram under each arm, unloading heavy equipment from his 'ute' and banging in fence posts for hours on end, a regime that was a world away from the modern high tech gymnasiums of today. His played his club rugby for King Country and his debut came against Australia in 1957, two days short of his twenty first birthday. Also in his first match was another man who would exert an enormous influence on New Zealand rugby over the next four decades - Wilson Whineray. In his second test Colin showed his versatility by deputising on the wing, and even scored a try, the first of seven in his career. During this time Australia were not the force they would later become, and Colin was on the winning side in 12 of 15 encounters against the Wallabies. Instead, the All Blacks' main opponents were the South Africans and the British Lions. After another successful series against Australia in '58, next up for the young Meads was the best of Britain and Ireland.


The 1959 Lions were an extremely talented side and enthralled the New Zealand crowds with their adventurous style of play. Colin sat out the first test as the Lions ran in four tries and the All Blacks were saved only by Don Clarke's accuracy with the boot. Meads was recalled for the second game and made an immediate impact, helping to nullify the opposition backs and scoring a try for a hard fought 11-8 win. The series was eventually won 3-1. In 1960 Colin travelled to South Africa for the first time and was part of a side that lost a very tight rubber by 2-1.


In one match he was jumped on by Springbok centre John Gainsford in retaliation to some real or imagined offence. Meads responded by grabbing the smaller man's wrists in a grip of iron and saying simply, "Don't bother son. Now you know what international rugby is all about." In 1965 South Africa arrived in New Zealand and Colin was able to take sweet revenge for the 1960 defeat. The Boks were vanquished 3-1 in the series and were humiliated 20-3 in the fourth test at Dunedin. Then, in 1966 the British Lions arrived again on another mission to break down fortress New Zealand, but that side were not a patch on their 1959 predecessors and the series ended up as a 4-0 hiding, with Meads getting on the score sheet in the second test, just as he had done back in 1959. (Jon Collins).




In 1967 Colin toured the UK as part of arguably the finest New Zealand team in history, though his trip was marred slightly when he received his marching orders against Scotland at Murrayfield, only the second time a New Zealander had been sent off in a test. However, the most infamous moment of his career came in the first test against Australia in 1968 in Sydney. With New Zealand leading 19-3, quicksilver Wallaby scrum-half Ken Catchpole was lying in a ruck over the ball unable to move from the weight of players above him. Meads, unaware of the half back's predicament, grabbed Catchpole's outstretched leg and yanked it sideways in an effort to shift the Aussie off the ball. The result was a horrific career ending injury for Catchpole which saw his hamstring torn free from the bone and severe rupturing of his groin muscles.


Although Catchpole held no animosity towards Meads, the act haunted the New Zealander for years, and he was treated by many Australians with the kind of hatred usually reserved for mass murderers. That dark incident aside, Meads generally had the reputation of being a fair player, though one who would use all the tricks at his disposal to get one over on the opposition. Many tried to exact vengeance on Pinetree as a result of his skullduggery, but nearly all failed. Of these was Russell Fairfax, the long haired golden boy of Australian rugby in the early 1970s. In a game against King Country in 1972, the slightly built fly-half responded to Meads pulling his hair by jumping off the ground and hitting the New Zealander with a flurry of punches screaming "This one's for Kenny Catchpole!". Fairfax met with the same response that John Gainsford had twelve years previously, and later recalled that his blows were so ineffectual he may as well have been trying to hit a tank.


In the 1970 South African tour Meads was the victim himself when his arm was intentionally broken in a provincial game, thus missing the first two tests and New Zealand went on to lose their first series for a decade. By 1971 Meads was 35, and not the player of old, but certainly still worth his place in the side and captained New Zealand against the touring British Lions. Colin was understandably devastated to lose a series he felt should have been won, but was noble in defeat and in a memorable speech saluted the Lions' great achievement. In retirement Meads continued to play a prominent role as a selector, coach and guru. He was struck off the NZRFU selection panel in 1986 for coaching the New Zealand Cavaliers, but later returned to the fold as New Zealand team manager.


His views on the modern game were forthright - in the professional era he believed rugby was losing sight of its traditional virtues such as comradeship and humility, and the idea that someone would need to be paid for wearing the Silver Fern was a complete anathema to him. For Meads, being an All Black carried with it a unique kudos, an honour that should be regarded with the utmost respect. Such was the way he felt that he would never train in an All Black jersey, for in his opinion to do so would be to desecrate the tradition. From his own career, one of his greatest friends was Ireland and British Lions captain Willie John McBride with whom he had duelled many times. Ironically though, McBride was one of the few to provide a match for the All Black legend, toppling Pinetree with a mighty blow in the 1963 test between Ireland and New Zealand at Lansdowne Road! (Jon Collins)