Laurie Mains' representative career started when he first played for Otago in 1967. He made his All Blacks début in 1971, against the British and Irish Lions. His last test was against Ireland in 1976. Although he toured South Africa in 1976, he played no test matches.
His coaching career started with Otago, where he coached for eight years. He was appointed All Blacks coach in 1992, and coached them up until the 1995 World Cup Final, where they lost to South Africa.
In 1998, Mains was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to rugby in the annual New Zealand Honours List.