All Black meets his match

TAKEDOWN: Ellie Bayliss defeats All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu in arm wrestling.
TAKEDOWN: Ellie Bayliss defeats All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu in arm wrestling.

Giggles rise up from tiny bodies dressed in black and white, barely making a dent in the seats at Founders Theatre.

Daniel Ormsby had a vivid in one hand, a fun-sized rugby ball in the other. His mission was to get it signed by his heroes - the All Blacks.

"Dan Carter is my favourite player because he's got the same name as me, Daniel, and he's a good kicker," said Daniel, who went along with his big sister.

New Zealand Rugby brought 10 members of the All Blacks to Founders Theatre yesterday in a free public event, hosted by Small Blacks TV host Nua Finau and Random Rugby host Makere Bradnam.

Grace Quigley, 5, and her sister Jorja, 9, both had their eyes fixed on the stage, with the painted backdrop of a changing shed, and filled with rugby balls which were handed out to diehard fans.

Grace was in her ripper rugby team uniform for St Joseph's Catholic School in Hamilton and said she wanted to be a Black Fern when she gets bigger.

Rototuna Primary student Emma Sherburn, 8, was also a Dan Carter fan.

"He gets all the points."

One toddler, who was wearing his miniature All Blacks jumper, practised his haka stomp to impress his idols before the players turned up on stage.

Once the team arrived, fans gobbled up the videos, activities, arm wrestles and freebies - including ITM Cup season passes, and got to have question time with the All Blacks.

The event, which was the first of its kind, followed a welcome at Hamilton Airport on Sunday afternoon, and came before an appearance in Garden Place last night.

Waikato Rugby Union operations manager Bill Heslop said the appearances helped build excitement before Saturday's test against England at Waikato Stadium.

Waikato Times