Friday, September 16, 2011

All Blacks and Japan prowl Hamilton

The All Blacks and Japanese are in Hamilton ahead of their test this Friday, and excitement is building ahead of the first of three World Cup tests in the city.

It continues a feast of rugby in Kirikiriroa of late, with Wales visitors last year, losing 29-10 to the All Blacks, while the Springboks in 2009 won the Investec Tri Nations there with a nail biting 32-29 victory.

The Welsh will soon be welcomed back to the city, with two tests against Samoa and Fiji in the coming weeks.

But for now the Tron is home to their beloved All Blacks, and a host of the stars have been seen throughout the city, and local boy Richard Kahui and Mils Muliaina have been warmly received by the rugby loving mooloo.

The All Blacks have been based here since the weekend, and local training sessions and autograph events have been attended by thousands.

While the city and Waikato Stadium may have been denied a landmark event with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (on the verge of his 100th test) a late scratching, it will still be a chance to see the team cut loose in their second World Cup test.

Japan arrived Wednesday, and did so quietly despite the presence of a legendary former All Black John Kirwan, with the ‘Cherry Blossoms’ focused and serious ahead of their clash with the world’s number one ranked team.

Kirwan, who scored 35 tries in an illustrious 63-test career, said that his only priority was to get his side ready.

"I’ve got to get a team ready for a big challenge," he said.

"It’s been great just coming to New Zealand for the World Cup and is a great experience preparing a team to play the All Blacks. This is the home of rugby and everyone knows the game. That’s why it’s so nice to get some compliments about the team after the France game. They knew that we played well... and that we missed an opportunity."

Kirwan said it was crucial his team show the same verve they displayed against France.

"Against the All Blacks in Hamilton it is important that we show the same courage we did last week," he said.

"You can look at it two ways: a hard task or an exciting opportunity. And we’re taking the exciting opportunity approach. We have made 10 changes but that’s because we need to use all our resources in a tough pool with France and New Zealand as our opening two games inside six day.

"Everyone in the squad had done the same amount of hard work. Everyone has done the blood, sweat and tears and this is a tournament so it’s important to realise we are a team of 30.

Kirwan, who scored a magnificent try in the 1987 World Cup against Italy, has lost none of his confidence as he said he knew where to target the All Blacks.

"We have a game plan and we are going to try to attack the All Blacks where we think we have seen some weaknesses."

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