WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former All Blacks captain and coach Brian Lochore has been diagnosed with bowel cancer, New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said on Friday.
The 78-year-old Lochore, a rugged loose forward in the great All Blacks teams of the 1960s, was diagnosed earlier this week, Tew said.
“Medical professionals have confirmed that Sir Brian has bowel cancer,” Tew said in a statement on NZR’s website. “He is in relatively good health at the moment, and he will undergo treatment soon.
“The thoughts of all New Zealand rugby fans are with Sir Brian and (wife) Pam as they face this health challenge.”
Lochore, who as a child had the ambition of becoming a jockey, was also a top-level tennis player.
He made his debut for the All Blacks in 1963 on the tour of Britain and Ireland before he went on to play 68 games, 25 of which were tests, for the side.
He was appointed captain of the team in 1966 by coach Fred Allen ahead of more experienced players like Colin Meads and Kel Tremain, before he retired in 1970 following the tour of South Africa.
Lochore, however, was called back into the injury-ravaged side for the test series against the British and Irish Lions in 1971, leaving a note for his wife ‘gone to Wellington, playing the test tomorrow’ on their refrigerator.
Meads wrote in his biography that Lochore was ‘everything I would want in a number eight’.
After retiring from playing, Lochore moved into coaching with his home team Wairarapa Bush and took them into the top-level of New Zealand’s provincial competition within two seasons.
He was appointed an All Blacks selector in 1983 and was the coach from 1985-87, dealing with the fallout of a rebel tour of South Africa in 1986 and reintegrating the players back into the national side.
Under Lochore and assistant coaches Alex Wyllie and John Hart, the side went on to win the inaugural Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and Australia in 1987.
Lochore stood down from the role after the tournament.
He was then instrumental with former national captain Jock Hobbs in helping lock up All Blacks players when rugby went professional in 1995 and there was a threat of a breakaway competition.
He returned to the All Blacks selection panel in 2004 after being asked by coach Graham Henry to step back into the national setup.
Lochore’s rugby career was intertwined with fellow All Blacks great Meads, who died in 2017 from pancreatic cancer, with New Zealand’s amateur provincial teams competing for the Meads and Lochore Cups.
He was knighted by New Zealand’s government in 1999 for his services to the community and sport.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Sudipto Ganguly