They may be the creme de la creme of New Zealand's rugby talent but the World Cup-bound All Blacks were also "dirt trackers" of sorts when they boarded the plane to France last night.
There was nothing demeaning about giving the 30-man squad the tag usually associated with a team's second string reserves as they each carried a capsule of earth from every New Zealand rugby ground that was once trodden on by one of the 1071 men chosen to represent New Zealand in the country's national game.
Each player was given the symbol of home while a bigger capsule was presented to captain Richie McCaw.
Although the Stade de France will be at the forefront of the players' minds over the next two months, they appreciated the opportunity to carry their own slice of "home ground advantage" to France.
"Our earth ties all New Zealand cultures together," McCaw said. "Whether you are Fijian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan or European, we are all from New Zealand and the earth we stand on is special to us all."
While the main stadiums were easily accounted for, small club grounds such as Dan Carter's Southbridge and Opunake Beach home for prop Carl Hayman were also included.
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