All Blacks great knighted
Wellington - Former All Blacks great John Kirwan, who has also coached Italy and Japan at Rugby World Cups as well as being an advocate for sufferers of depression, was honoured with a knighthood Monday.
The 47-year-old was named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the country's Queen's Birthday honours list for his services to mental health and rugby union.
Kirwan, who played 63 Tests for the All Blacks, has become a campaigner for mental health issues and written about his own battle with depression in the book "All Blacks Don't Cry".
"There were scary times because of the stigma attached to depression, but I have tried to break those down because it is an illness, not a weakness," he told the New Zealand Herald.
He said he thought long and hard about accepting the knighthood and did so "on behalf of all those people who are suffering, to show there is hope.
"My main message is that there is always hope, there is always help, there is always a way out of the troubles."
Kirwan has appeared at the Rugby World Cup five times, as an All Black player in 1987 and 1991, and as the coach of Italy in 2003, and Japan in 2007 and 2011.
Former assistant All Blacks coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith were both made Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their part in the team's World Cup victory last October.
The then head coach Graham Henry had already been knighted in the New Year's honours list, when captain Richie McCaw turned down the offer of an immediate knighthood saying it did not seem appropriate while he was still playing.