All Blacks hit Kerikeri (+pics)

By Peter de Graaf

All Black fever hit Kerikeri this week as four members of the squad spent the day signing autographs and reffing rippa rugby in the Bay of Islands town.<inline type="photogallery" id="15697" align="outside" embed="no" />

Four players named in the team for the European tour - Conrad Smith, Sam Cane, Corey Jane and Liam Messam - joined a mix and mingle at Procter Library on Tuesday morning, then attended a function for Bay of Islands coaches and administrators at the Kerikeri Sports Complex.

They then headed to Kerikeri High School where they took part in two games of rippa rugby pitting senior students against teachers and Northland Rugby Union staff.

Smith and Jane refereed the games while Messam and Cane bolstered the teams and the entire 1400-pupil school watched from the sidelines.

Smith was "quite impressed" by the standard of play, with teachers and students showing good skills. The teachers just had the edge in the last game, winning through a last-minute try.

"I had to give it to them because I was getting tired," Smith joked, adding he volunteered to be referee because it involved less running around.

PE teacher Leon Margan said it was a great opportunity for students to meet and play alongside All Black squad members.

"I think it's fantastic for the local community that they give up the time to come here. The kids really appreciate it."

After the games the players got to work out their autographing arms as hundreds of pupils filed through the gym getting rugby balls, T-shirts and pictures signed.

Rosie Jenkins, 15, had come prepared with photos of her favourite, Chiefs flanker Sam Cane but the heat and excitement got too much for one girl who fainted on the table in front of Cane and Jane.

Earlier, the All Blacks met head boy Justin Rogers and head girl Emma McNeill

and were presented with the school's new cookbook, published to raise money to fit out the its new culinary centre.

Other players went to Whanganui, Taupo, Whakatane, Napier, Hastings, Blenheim, Leeston and Mosgiel in a provinces promotion.

- Northern Advocate

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