Wellington - All Blacks past and present joined school children and members of the wider Wellington community at the funeral service of former captain Jerry Collins on Wednesday.
Collins, who played 48 Tests for the All Blacks and captained them three times, was killed along with his partner Alana Madill in a car crash in southern France on June 5. Their three-month daughter remains in hospital.
His body was escorted home by his cousin, former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, and Chris Masoe, who both addressed the service.
People started arriving about two hours before the funeral at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena, about 20 minutes north of Wellington, with more than 3 000 packed into the main hall and the service broadcast into another area holding the overflow.
Local media reported live from the service on their websites, while there was an outpouring of condolences on social media.
A tough, abrasive character on the field, Collins was remembered as a highly intelligent and caring individual off it, who was immensely proud of his roots in the working class suburbs of Porirua and of his local rugby club Northern United.
"Nobody makes us prouder than coming from Porirua than Jerry Collins," Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett told the service.
"Jerry never forgot where he came from ... we never missed the chance to say 'Jerry Collins, he's a Porirua Boy.'"
Collins was revered in Wellington rugby circles, often appearing for Norths without permission from Hurricanes or All Blacks officials, which was something that made his death even harder to accept, club president Ron Wood said.
"We as a club are hurting deeply. Jerry was our legend at Norths," Wood said.
"The enormous contribution he's given our club single handedly changed the mindset of this community."
Collins' coffin was carried into the service by members of his old school, St. Patrick's College, with fellow All Blacks Richie McCaw and Dan Carter and players and officials from the Wellington Hurricanes in attendance.
"To him it was more than a game," current Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said. "He understood how he could inspire a community and a country, then when he walked off the field he knew it was just a game.
"His passing cast a shadow over all of New Zealand, it was probably longest here in Porirua".
Collins was 34.