All Black great Sir Brian Lochore dies aged 78

Former All Blacks' captain and coach Sir Brian Lochore has died at the age of 78.

He had been suffering from cancer.

Sir Brian's wife, Lady Pam, and the couple's three children said they were mourning, but were relieved his suffering had ended. They wanted to express their gratitude for the care and support the family has received since Sir Brian's diagnosis.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said Sir Brian passed away surrounded by family.

"We have lost a genuine legend of our country, an unwavering figure on the field, and a highly respected figure off it," Mr Tew said.

"It is not over-stating the facts to say that Sir Brian Lochore was the saviour of New Zealand rugby on several occasions and many of us have lost a great mate. Our hearts go out to Pam and their children."

All Blacks' coach Steve Hansen said Sir Brian was a "wonderful, wonderful" man who led what he considered the best All Blacks' team ever.

"He was a leader and a fantastic ball player and runner with the ball way before forwards were meant to be able to do that," Hansen said.

"I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with him early on in my coaching career with the All Blacks. He was a guiding light really.

"We shared some great moments and it's those moments we'll remember now.

"He had a wicked sense of humour, but a serious side too... Always a pleasure to share a beer with. He loved a joke - there were some funny moments we had together."

All Blacks' captain Kieran Read said Sir Brian spent his life giving to New Zealand rugby.

"As a player, captain, and then coached the team to its first World Cup, and as part of the management as well of this most recent team in the last few years.

"It's always hard when you lose a fellow All Black, and in his case it's more than just an All Black."

Former Masterton mayor Bob Francis said Sir Brian was a special son of the Wairarapa.

He said Sir Brian was driven, had an inner strength and was very perceptive. The two were friends since high school.

"He was a guy who always had his feet on the ground so all the fame never really affected him in any way," Mr Francis said.

"He still related so well to everyone in our community and everyone knew him as BJ."