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Rugby greats salute Sir Fred Allen

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Sportal.co.nz     02 May 2012     Getty Images

Rugby's New Zealand knights Sir Wilson Whineray, Sir Brian Lochore and Sir Colin Meads, along with Waka Nathan and Ian Kirkpatrick, helped carry the unbeaten All Blacks coach from his funeral service and later acknowledged the significant role Allen, the All Blacks coach from 1966-68, had on their lives.

Lochore, who was named captain of the All Blacks by Allen ahead of several more widely touted choices, acknowledged that Allen's decision had changed his life.

Lochore said he had grown up wanting to be an All Black but never dreamt of becoming captain – an appointment Allen made when assuming the coaching role in 1966 and regarding it as one of the master-strokes of his career.

"It was a pretty risky business for a country boy from Wairarapa Bush," Lochore said during the service.

"But it started a great friendship with Fred. He was strong on discipline, I suppose that was his military background but for him it [discipline] was No.1 in any team.

"Respect for fellow rugby people and loyalty, he had great respect and confidence in the players chosen to do the job he wanted. He was a passionate man, and passionate about the game," Lochore said.

He added that Allen had the utmost respect for the manager of his 1967 team to Britain and France, regarded as one of the finest teams to play the game, Charlie Saxton, the man who had captained the 1945-46 New Zealand Kiwis Army team on their post-war tour of Europe.

"Fred made rugby a simple game so long as you ran, passed and backed up. You had to be super fit and do the basics to perfection. In the end we played for him. We believed in what he was telling us and we believed in him.

"He made a lot of people better players," Lochore said.

Meads said he copped a fair barrage from Allen in his time but he knew it was often the result of Allen wanting to impress younger players by picking on the more experienced players who were often pre-warned of his verbal assaults.

"He showed great vision to appoint Brian [Lochore] as captain, it was one of the great achievements of his coaching career."

Meads related the occasion his Wanganui-King Country side had beaten the 1966 British and Irish Lions before a Test match.

"Fred told me I had been a seagull, got all the publicity from the win when it was my brother Stan who did all the work, but for all that he was a kind and generous man," Meads said.

He related sitting with Allen at last year's Rugby World Cup final and the relief and pride at the fact the All Blacks were able to win the World Cup. Seeing his delight would be a lasting memory, Meads said.

"He must go down in rugby as one of the greatest coaches the world ever had."

Whineray related that he had never been coached in the All Blacks by Allen, retiring the year before he gained the job, but he was coached by him for Auckland during their 25-game tenure of the Ranfurly Shield, a record at the time.

"He would get so intense and wound up before a game. But he always picked on the older players, the ones he knew could take it. It was a joy to know him," Whineray said.

Long-time friend and the man who co-wrote Allen's biography 96-year-old Alan Sayers spoke of Allen's distinguished military career and the loyalty, integrity and love of New Zealand that was central to his life.

"He was an exceptional leader and motivator of men," Sayers said.