Greg Feek knows more than many about the personal cost of the Christchurch earthquakes.

The former All Blacks and Crusaders prop, now the Ireland scrum coach, lost a family friend in the February quake, plus a cafe he owned in Worcester Boulevard called the Green Turtle.

Today he experienced firsthand the devastation of the red zone as the Ireland team toured the central business district in a bus.

Stopping beside the shattered Christ Church cathedral in the Square, Feek spoke of his feelings at being back in the city. Born in New Plymouth, the 36-year-old was based in Christchurch when playing for the Crusaders, but has lived in Ireland for the past two years. He also coaches at the champion Leinster club.


He said he felt "humbled" and "emotional". The last time he was in the city, which he describes as his second home, was after the World Cup when he spent several days here "paying his respects".

The Irish, who play the All Blacks at the new AMI Stadium in Addington on Saturday, will be the first international visitors to play in Christchurch since the earthquakes.

Speaking about the loss of his friend, who was close to his wife Jess, Feek said: "Jess was pretty cut up by that - we were in Ireland at the time. There were a lot of close calls too, you heard about the close calls. Everyone knew someone [who was affected].

"It's so long ago but it feels like it just happened for me.

"Initially it was just another bus ride for the boys, but even just coming down Victoria St there, things started to kick in. It was pretty tough, the boys were pretty quiet.

"For me Christchurch is special because of the people here and you just hope the city can get going again."

He said he hoped Saturday's sellout crowd would enjoy the game after the city missed out on hosting matches during the World Cup.

Feek said the Ireland fitness trainer was "on edge" about further aftershocks, but coach Declan Kidney showed a neat sidestep when asked if the team was nervous about being in the city.


"We played in New Zealand last Saturday night - we felt an aftershock from that ourselves," he said. "Obviously we were disappointed last Saturday night from a rugby context but this puts it into true context. This isn't a game, this is real life."

Kidney, who was sitting next to Feek on the bus, added: "It's been about 20 years since I was in Christchurch but he [Feek] hardly recognised it. I suppose when you have that experience of sitting next to someone like that you can just feel the emotion. It's hard not to be wrapped up in it."

Asked about the mood among the players on the bus, Kidney said: "Anybody who knows rugby teams knows what it takes to keep a busload of them quiet. I think that's the best way of summing it up. It's a very difficult thing to put into words.

"We're delighted to be back here and the first international team here since this. Every country goes through crises, you can just feel this one can't you."