New Zealand Rugby
All Blacks great John Kirwan knighted
ESPN Staff
June 3, 2012
Japan coach John Kirwan, Japan press conference, Kingsgate Hotel, Hamilton, New Zealand, September 14, 2011
All Blacks great John Kirwan has been knighted as much for his services to mental health as those to the rugby world © Getty Images
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Former All Blacks winger John Kirwan has been knighted in the Queen's Birthday honours for his services to mental health.

The 47-year-old won 63 Test caps and the 1987 Rugby World Cup in a 10-year international career before going onto carve out a career as a coach but he has been recognised largely for his efforts to raise awareness about mental health and in particular depression, an illness he has suffered from himself.

He joins an elite list of former All Blacks to be knighted including Sir Wilson Whineray, Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore, Sir John Graham and the late Sir Fred Allen while former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry was honoured in the New Year.

''I'm sure it's a combination but the mental health side of it outweighs the rugby,'' Kirwan told Fairfax Media. ''I'm certainly proud of the rugby stuff I've achieved but the work that I'm continuing to do with mental health is a very strong part of my life.''

Kirwan said he was "dumbfounded'' when first informed of the honour but is now determined to put it to good use and hopes it can inspire those troubled by depression. ''Starting out, I had a lot of fear about exposing myself but it's turned into an incredibly humbling and satisfying journey. I'm still getting emails every day from people, so it's a fantastic thing for me to be involved with and there's still a lot more we can do.

''Hopefully this knighthood will give people hope, strength and encouragement, because when you're unwell it's pretty dark. Hopefully this will continue to add to the work, help people understand the illness and continue to break down the stigma.''

Kirwan, who was joined on the Queen's latest honours list by New Zealand's World Cup coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith who were both made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), has just finished coaching the Barbarians on their recent three-match tour of the UK having previously worked with Italy and Japan.

He is reportedly keen on a return to New Zealand to further his chances of coaching the All Blacks and is set to apply for the soon-to-be-vacant role at the Auckland-based Blues.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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