Thousands cheer All Blacks victory parade
LAURA WESTBROOK AND MICHELLE ROBINSON
Rugby's new world champions have been named the International Rugby Board's team of the year.
The All Blacks, who last night defeated France 8-7 in the Rugby World Cup final, received their latest accolade at the IRB awards in Auckland tonight.
Despite All Blacks Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu and Jerome Kaino being short-listed for player of the year, it was France captain and World Cup final man-of-the-match Thierry Dusautoir who claimed that award.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry was named coach of the year and former New Zealand Rugby Union chairman and All Black Jock Hobbs was given the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service.
A sea of black greeted the All Blacks Rugby World Cup victory parade in Auckland's Queen St this afternoon as thousands swarmed to catch a glimpse of their heroes.
The team rolled down the main street on utes to deafening cheers, with the All Blacks soaking in the adulation.
Players waved to the crowd and applauded their fans, and a massive cheer went up when captain Richie McCaw lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.
Big cheers were reserved for Steven Donald and Aaron Cruden.
Drums and bagpipes played as the All Blacks made their way down the street, and a troupe of dancers followed behind.
McCaw said: "I'm blown away by the amount of people about... It means so much to anyone who supports the team and is a Kiwi... I'm so pleased to have it in my hands."
"What a way to bring the Cup home," said hooker Keven Mealamu.
Halfback Andy Ellis said it was "a special time for all of New Zealand".
Spirits were high and eager fans passed the time before the parade by starting Mexican waves down Queen St and singing the national anthem before the parade began.
The parade started at the corner of Albert St and Customs St West, and moved along Customs St West and up Queen St, ending at the corner of Wellesley St and Mayoral Dr.
It was an event many Kiwis had waited a lifetime to witness.
"I'm speechless," said 24-year-old Aleesa Vining.
"I'm not normally so emotional but I was crying. I was just so overwhelmed that our team has brought home the World Cup. The atmosphere was electric."
Many fans waited for hours in the sun to catch a glimpse of their heroes, and insisted it was well worth the wait.
Bobbi Ghezzu brought her family to watch the parade and couldn't contain her emotions.
"I was crying. Tears of joy. Last night we were just holding our breath and they did it," said the mother-of-two.
"It's so fantastic. I'm still on a high."
Peta Tui brought her family to the central city as she wanted them to witness a piece of history.
"We are so proud. It's been 24 years in the making," said the Aucklander.
"We don't normally go to parades but I wanted my children to see something they'll remember forever."
Her 12-year-old son Juan-Pedro Tui made a tie with 30 stars to represent the All Black squad, with "Black is the new gold" written on it.
With them was Paul Wilson who said he was still on a high.
"I couldn't sleep last night. I just feel so exhilarated," said Wilson.
"We have four years of pride ahead of us."
Tracey McKendry drove into Auckland from Hamilton this morning specifically for the parade.
"We had such fun last night, I decided to drive in to Auckland to cheer them on," said the 50-year-old.
"It's important to celebrate this moment with them. They did it while carrying the weight of a nation on their shoulders."
Fiona Mitford travelled with her 12-year-old daughter Bell from Gisborne for the final weekend and to see the parade.
"Even if you're not a rugby enthusiast, it's great to see the country pull together," she said.
"Auckland looks great, it's a beautiful day. I'm so proud."
- Auckland Now