All Blacks say thanks to their fans

By Laura Stowell

Just over half an hour was nowhere near enough time for all the Wanganui people who wanted to greet four visiting All Blacks yesterday.

Aaron Cruden, Charlie Faumuina, Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock spent the morning reading stories, singing songs and coaching rugby skills at Wanganui District Library.

Not much of that got done because they were mobbed by fans who wanted photographs with them and their signatures on rugby balls and jerseys.

The adoration for the team that lifted the Rugby World Cup was obvious.

Young and old flocked to the library, including brigades of mothers with pushchairs. An area was set up outside for two ABs to coach children in rugby skills, while the two other stars tried to answer questions above the noise in the library's children's area Not everyone scored an early autograph or picture, and a queue that was almost a scrum happened in the courtyard when official autograph time rolled around. The ABs appeared to be well practised as public figures. They held babies, posed with the elderly and smiled and signed their names for anyone who asked.

Faumuina said some promotional outings were full-on like that, and he would be flying back to Auckland in the afternoon for a rest.

The visit was part of a one-day goodwill mission by groups of four All Blacks to eight rural New Zealand towns.

It was sponsored by Air New Zealand and the 32 players were all those named for the European tour squad.

Wanganui Rugby Union chief executive Dale Cobb said the visits were a thank you to rural New Zealand for its support during the Rugby World Cup last year. The Wanganui visit was organised by Masina Kenworthy, on behalf of the Youth Services Trust and Wanganui District Council.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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