The All Blacks, and in particular coach Steve Hansen, have embarked on a charm offensive as they begin their attempt to become the first nation to defend a World Cup title.

It was evident at the official welcoming ceremony early this morning NZT at the Tower of London, a World Heritage site and one which clearly made its mark on the squad of 31 players and management only hours after they arrived from their long-haul flight. All Black Sam Cane shared a video earlier this morning on his Facebook page of the Air New Zealand Staff performing the haka, giving the World Cup squad a fitting send off.

Keep up with the latest Rugby World Cup news by signing up to the daily NZ Herald Sport newsletter.

New Zealand All Blacks first-five Daniel Carter meets the fans, after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks first-five Daniel Carter meets the fans, after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks pose for a photograph after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks pose for a photograph after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

In front of a select group of guests, and a small group of media, the All Blacks were welcomed by RFU chairman and former British and Irish Lion Bill Beaumont, plus the Lord Mayor of London Alderman Alan Yarrow, and to some extent it was Hansen who stole the show with his sincere words, spoken off the cuff, combined with his notoriously dry humour.

Advertisement

"I guess it's about winning ... but on the other hand it's about connecting with the country," he told the audience.

Members of the New Zealand All Blacks team arrive for their Rugby World Cup 2015 Welcome Ceremony at The Tower of London. Photo / Getty Images.
Members of the New Zealand All Blacks team arrive for their Rugby World Cup 2015 Welcome Ceremony at The Tower of London. Photo / Getty Images.
The All Blacks arrive at Heathrow aiport.
The All Blacks arrive at Heathrow aiport.

Hansen told a school choir, which sung A World in Union, to begin the ceremony, that since they were wearing black he hoped they would support his team and he had a sly dig at World Rugby for a media schedule which has the All Blacks giving nine press conferences in nine days.

New Zealand All Blacks pose for a photograph after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs
New Zealand All Blacks pose for a photograph after the All Blacks team official welcome ceremony to the Rugby World Cup 2015 at the Tower of London. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Later, at a press conference at the team's hotel a stone's throw from the Tower, Hansen began by noting: "I'd just like to say how privileged we feel to be here... England 2015 have probably organised by far the best World Cup in history, I think. They've learned from previous World Cups ... so we're excited about that. We excited about getting around the country and playing in different cities. Even here in London we get to play at venues we've never played at before."

Skipper Richie McCaw, attending his fourth World Cup, said of the 45-minute ceremony which was attended by at least one Beefeater, the famous wardens of the Tower: "For those of us who have been here before it reminded us what it's all about and the guys who haven't been here before, to have experienced something like that it's a reminder how big this tournament is."

The All Blacks haven't always wanted to connect with supporters or embrace the occasion - most notably at the 1991 World Cup in these parts, a tournament in which they were criticised in some quarters for wearing expressions as black as their jerseys.

New Zealand All Blacks first-five Daniel Carter leads the team out to meet the fans. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks first-five Daniel Carter leads the team out to meet the fans. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

It's all change now, though, and that has clearly been led by Hansen, a man who looks comfortable in his own skin and with few discernable nerves as he attempts to win a World Cup for the first time as a head coach.

New wing Nehe Milner-Skudder also charmed the assembled media when he spoke about being impressed by being in business class on the trip over, adding of his impressions of his first trip to the United Kingdom: "Mum used to watch Coronation Street, but I heard that was in Manchester. I don't know how far that is from here."

Hansen, asked by an English journalist who the All Blacks' biggest threat was, didn't hesitate: "Argentina.They're the next game we play so they're our biggest threat. I'm not going to sit here today and say who our biggest threats are because that's not being respectful. We haven't earned the right to say who is going to play in the semifinals or the finals or the quarter-finals."

The All Blacks, who play the Pumas at Wembley on Monday NZT, have arrived and appear to be in good form already.

Thank you to the New Zealand public and the Air New Zealand staff for the wicked send off! Very excited to start this journey! #RWC2015

Posted by Sam Cane on Thursday, September 10, 2015