Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All Blacks rub shoulders with Royalty
By DUNCAN JOHNSTONE in London, Fairfax Media
Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, told captain Richie McCaw he's in for an easy game against England while coach Graham Henry was chuffed to be remembered by the Queen as the All Blacks rubbed shoulders with the British royalty today.

The players had to endure a half hour wait in bitterly cold conditions but it didn't take long for them to warm to their famous hosts once the formalities got under way in a Kiwi-flavoured setting next to the Tower Bridge here. The royals came to meet the All Blacks and inspect The Rugby Ball, the giant expo centre that has been erected in the capital to promote The 2011 Rugby World Cup and New Zealand tourism.

With a large media throng assembled an hour and half before the Queen's arrival and the All Blacks taking up their position about an hour later, standing in formation three-deep outside the ball, they copped a decent blast off the Thames. Officially the temperature was two degrees but the wind-chill factor had to be much lower.

The Queen and Duke arrived to be met by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, All Blacks captain McCaw and a Maori welcome. After briefly greeting the team they went inside the ball where they watched a 10-minute video promotion of New Zealand and talked informally for a further 20 minutes or so.

McCaw said he had a decent chat with the Duke.
"He was asking me what the grounds were like and what it was like to play at Twickenham," said McCaw as conversation centred around the All Balcks clash with England there this weekend in a test that will complete the All Blacks' year and offers them the chance to snare a rare Grand Slam. England's 42-6 loss to the Springboks was also raised – at the Prince's insistence.
"He reckons it will be quite easy (for the All Blacks) this weekend but I don't know about that," chuckled McCaw.
McCaw said it was an experience to treasure.
"I remember we got the chance to meet them a couple of years ago but it wasn't till we got home and I said we had got to meet the Queen and Duke and people were blown away by it. The guys really enjoyed it and the ball and display inside was cool."

Henry appeared delighted that the Queen had remembered him.
"I have been fortunate to meet the Queen twice and she remembered the last time ... so she told me," he said."It was great for the young guys to meet her. They were very relaxed and had good conversations."

Henry was also impressed with the giant ball.
"It's very special ... marvellous New Zealand technology and it sends out a very good message," he said.

The ball will be in London for a week and is now open to the public.
Early next week it will be the base for the draw for the 2011 Rugby World Cup to be held in New Zealand.McCaw and Henry along with New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs and New Zealand's World Cup boss Martin Snedden – who were all present today – will be at the draw.

*ben si Phiphi le dit, c'est peut ere que c'est vrai! --if Prince Philip says so, it must be true :)
*note to mister Henry : this ball was last year in Paris during the RWC, and according to Cécile and I (and I'm sure the other Frogs agree), it was way better looking at 'our' place!!! just for the record!!!

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