All Blacks on charm offensive in New Plymouth
ABs' visit like 'Christmas all over again'ISOBEL EWING, HANNAH FLEMING AND LYN HUMPHREYS
The All Blacks turned on the PR charm in New Plymouth yesterday ahead of tonight's test match.
Members of the squad were out and about around the city meeting some of their many fans.
At Fitzroy Engineering, captain Kieran Read joined Ben Franks, Dane Coles and Keven Mealamu to spend the morning chatting to workers and having their photos taken with them.
Read said he had enjoyed his time in New Plymouth catching up with some of his uncles and aunts who live in the city.
The team had worked hard this week on their game and were feeling good, he said.
"It's a tough point, coming off two wins. But we're improving.
"We'll get it right," Read said.
All Black sponsors Steinlager handed over a well-stocked beer refrigerator to the Fitzroy Engineering workers.
Welder Taamilo Fanono Faleatua Malili was delighted to take home the prize of the day, a large black lounge chair emblazoned with All Blacks and Steinlager logos.
Victor Vito, Sam Cane and Conrad Smith joined a New Plymouth Girls' High School assembly, and presented the First XI football team with a full kit of adidas gear they had won in a national competition.
The three All Blacks took on the role of fitting assistant as they helped each team member choose from an array of brightly coloured adidas football boots.
Goalkeeper Grace George, 14, said having boots fitted by the boys in black was "like Christmas all over again".
Vito could make a profession of shoe fitting, she joked.
She said the new kit was a good incentive to work hard this season.
"It should bring a new spark to the old soccer life."
Smith said the team were thrilled with the support from Taranaki and were looking forward to tonight's match.
"I think the French will be hurting a bit, so it'll make for a good game."
It was the outstanding colouring-in of Egmont Village School pupils that won them a visit from All Blacks Francis Saili and Brodie Retallick yesterday.
The school won a colouring-in competition run by the Taranaki Rugby Football Union and as the All Blacks pair walked the halls of the rural school more than 130 children dressed in black chanted at the top of their lungs.
Hailing from Amberley, with a cousin who is the principal at Kakaramea School, Retallick said he had an appreciation for rural schools and always enjoyed his visits. A question and answer session revealed his favourite thing about being at school had been lunchtime, while Saili claimed to be the teacher's pet in his day.
The Egmont Village children also found out who the All Blacks' rugby heroes were.
As a burly lock, Retallick picked someone of similar stature in Chris Jack, while Saili opted for showman Carlos Spencer.
St Pius X School also got behind the All Blacks with a "backing black" day at school yesterday.
- Taranaki Daily News
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?