Celebrating sporting greats - A bit of both

It is a fair indication of how sport in general, and rugby in particular, has changed so very dramatically that New Zealand legend Colin Meads, who died aged 81 yesterday and stopped playing the game in 1971, was the same size as Irish centre Robbie Henshaw. 

Meads, who stood at 1.92m — six foot three in old money — and tipped the scales at 102kg — just over 16 stone — was regarded as such a monster that he was called Pinetree. Henshaw, at 1.91m and 102kg is standard issue by today’s standards, even for a back.

Meads’ legendary status was based on his forceful style of play though his modest and generous personality, and his dry humour too, was helpful — it tempered the idea that he was just the All Blacks’ indomitable grim reaper.

His death, after a struggle with cancer, is as good a reason as any to reopen the nature or nurture debate.

Do we celebrate sports stars because they are the same as us but just better with a ball or a stick, or because they are a different, more exciting subset of humanity? The answer, it seems
reasonable to suggest, and as Meads proved, is a bit of both.


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