WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Fergie McCormick, a hard-tackling fullback who played 16 tests among 28 matches for the All Blacks between 1965 and 1971, has died aged 78, New Zealand Rugby said.

William Fergus McCormick, known as Fergie, had been suffering from throat cancer.

McCormick made his All Blacks debut at the relatively late age of 26 after the fullback position had been occupied by the great Don Clarke and Mick Williment. He played his first test against South Africa in 1965 and was later chosen ahead of Williment for the 1967 tour to Britain.

McCormick was small, standing only 171cm (5'6'), but was a gritty defender.

The All Blacks website records that "in his heyday there were few more indomitable figures in the game and the stockily-built pocket battleship became celebrated for his fearless tackling."

He was also one of the first running fullbacks who surprised opponents with his pace.