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Henry praises Sir Fred Allen's influence

Published: 11:16AM Saturday April 28, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Sir Graham Henry says legendary All Blacks captain and coach Sir Fred Allen was "very influential" on his early coaching career.

Sir Fred, 92, nicknamed 'The Needle', passed away this morning in his Orewa hospital bed where he had taken up residence in recent months.

Born in Oamaru in 1920, Sir Fred went on to play 21 matches for the All Blacks, debuting against Australia in Dunedin in 1946 after serving in World War II.

As coach of the All Blacks Sir Fred enjoyed tremendous success in winning all 14 Tests played from 1966 to 1968.

Sir Graham joined the growing list of former All Blacks coaches and players to pay tribute to The Needle.

"It was influential when you were developing as a young coach and he was coaching the All Blacks," Sir Graham told ONE News from Perth.

"I was just finishing playing and starting to coach and it had an influence on you and it influenced the way the game was played and the tactical approach, the 15-man approach, he was very influential."

Sir Graham said he continued to discuss the game with Sir Fred throughout his coaching career and enjoyed his passion for the game.

"We used to run into each other pretty regularly when I was coaching Auckland and the Blues and then in the early times when I was coaching the All Blacks and have a chat over a quiet pint after the game, he was a great guy to talk to because he had a pretty simplistic approach to the whole thing.

"Even when I spoke to him over the last few years he still had that edge to him and and you could see why they called him The Needle."

'Extraordinarily unique'

Former All Black captain Sir Wilson Whineray said Sir Fred will be remembered as an "extraordinarily unique" man who's contribution to rugby will never be forgotten.

"He was very intense in the nicest meaning of the word. He liked rugby to be played with precision, that's what he insisted on and he could be pretty grumpy about it," said Whineray who was coached by Sir Fred in Auckland.

The Needle had a positive effect on Auckland rugby, where in his dual roles as selector-coach he guided the province to a Ranfurly Shield record run of 25 matches between 1957 and 1963.

Auckland Rugby Chairman, Glenn Wahlstrom, said Sir Fred's enthusiasm for the game was always obvious.

"From the early days right through his twilight years, he attended many Auckland Rugby and later Blues fixtures, always ready with motivational words of encouragement for coaches and players," he said.

"He was such a popular and hugely respected member of the Auckland Rugby fraternity, contributing to the union well beyond his playing and coaching days."

From 1972-1974, Sir Fred was President of Auckland Rugby. In 1981, he became an Auckland Rugby Life Member and was elected Patron of the union in 2003. In 2006 he became a Life Member of NZRU.

Sir Fred was also made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to rugby in 2010.

Earlier this week, Sir Fred had participated in the opening of a bridge at Auckland Memorial Park and at an Anzac Day service

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