New knight Bryan Williams likens his lifelong involvement with his sport to a marriage.
"I've loved rugby and fortunately rugby has loved me back," he said.
"You have some really great times and some happy times, but there are also the hard times and the sad times, but we're still together."
Sir Bryan, 67, has been made a Knight Companion of the NZ Order or Merit for services to rugby in New Zealand and Samoa since the 1960s.
Being notified of the honour sent "shivers down my spine".
"I've had a chance to absorb it now and I'm absolutely chuffed about it and humbled."
The son of Pacific Island migrants, Sir Bryan made 113 All Blacks appearances, 38 in Tests.
He exploded on the international scene during the 1970 tour of South Africa as a 19-year-old wing with speed, power and a huge sidestep.
"Nothing can ever take away the thrill of playing for the All Blacks," he said.
"But I enjoyed my coaching both in New Zealand and with the Samoa national team."
His successes included guiding Manu Samoa to victory over a Graham Henry-coached Wales at the 1999 World Cup.
Among administrative positions he has held have been NZ Rugby Union president, overseeing the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Sir Bryan paid tribute to "long-suffering" wife Lesley, who has coped with his absences through rugby, and said his family had been a big influence on him.
Another large part of his life has been the Ponsonby club, which he joined as a boy.
"I've had lots of mentors, lots of friends, people I've grown up with and met as virtually a child in a stool, whom I'm great mates with," he said.
"Those things are special - the camaraderie and friendship of the game of rugby."