Fans flock to Richie and the boys

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 09:32 31/10/2012
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Aroha Millen-Ratama, 8, gets exited about getting a signature from All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
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Emma Allen
All Blacks signing session at Marlborough Lines Stadium, Blenheim.
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Emma Allen
All Black Julian Savea signs Tracy Doak's t-shirt.
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All Blacks captain Richie McCaw
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All Blacks signing session at Marlborough Lines Stadium
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All Black captain Richie McCaw high fives the unlucky people in the line that missed out on a signature.
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Emma Allen
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw signs Lily Bond's shirt

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Hundreds of excited All Blacks fans piled into the Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 in Blenheim yesterday for a chance to meet a few of the boys in black.

The ABs on tour in Blenheim were captain Richie McCaw, Owen Franks, Julian Savea and Sam Whitelock.

They flew in yesterday morning as part of a goodwill visit by players to eight regions around the country after the announcement of the line-up to play Scotland, Italy, Wales and England in November.

Fans had about 30 minutes from noon to get players to sign all manner of All Black or rugby-related merchandise, and even themselves.

Nathan Peipi said he had taken time off work to shuttle his three children - Nikau, 8, Te Ariki, 10, and Jordan, 14 - to the stadium for a chance to meet the players.

"It's great that they've come down here to do this - and it's great for the kids," he said.

Blenheim woman Dianne Smith was equally excited.

"I've been waiting 10 years to meet this man [McCaw]," she said.

In her hands was a copy of The Open Side, a look at McCaw's All Blacks career by his biographer Greg McGee.

But with an initial signing queue that stretched nearly the width of the stadium, she knew it would take a miracle to get to her hero and have the booked signed.

"I don't have a chance - not with this queue," she said.

She was one of many people who didn't get to meet McCaw and his teammates when they had to leave at 12.30pm to head for the airport.

Two tourists did manage to get to the front of the queue. Ale Almeida and Martin Bogado, of Argentina, had a rugby ball and posters signed, despite jokingly labelling the All Blacks as "the enemy".

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The visiting All Blacks had a non-stop schedule before flying out at 1.25pm, including a game at the Blenheim Indoor Sports & Ten Pin Centre and visiting Cornerstone Cafe and Bar.

- The Marlborough Express

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