All Blacks find time for smaller players

The might be preparing for the big game, but the All Blacks still found time to play alongside some of their younger fans.

Rugby players from six Dunedin primary schools were joined by six considerably older players from the slightly better-known New Zealand team at the Edgar Centre yesterday for a fun Rippa Rugby tournament.

The pupils from Liberton Christian School, Milton School, Waikouaiti School, North East Valley Normal School, Grant’s Braes School and Sawyers Bay School were joined by All Blacks George Bower, Ethan Blackadder, Asafo Aumua, George Bridge, David Havili and Tupou Vaa’i for some fun and a few tips, before signing posters and taking photos with the children.

Smiling alongside All Black George Bower at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin yesterday are (back from...
Smiling alongside All Black George Bower at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin yesterday are (back from left) Asher Schwenke, Meatuai Kosena Eteuati, Grace Nicoll, Kayleigh Blair, (front from left) Daniel Koh, Hannah Dewdney (all 8), An Xin Chang (9) and Edmund Daley (8), of Liberton Christian School. Alex Thurston (10), from Grant's Braes School, plays rippa rugby with All Black Ethan Blackadder. Running away from All Black David Havili is Sean Scharr (9), of North East Valley Normal School.

Otago Rugby commercial manager Paul Thompson said schools were invited to apply to attend the event and six winners were chosen at random.

The Rippa tournament provided a welcome break for the All Blacks.

Aumua said he remembered taking part in similar events and meeting All Blacks when he was a young rugby player.

He was meant to be having the day off , but did not want to pass up the opportunity to spend time with the children.

"It’s always great to see happy little faces."

Budding halfback Johnny Lahood (10), of Grant’s Braes School, said he wanted to play in the All Blacks when he grew up. He enjoyed meeting members of the team and was looking forward to watching the match. He said he trained hard and ate three Weet-Bix each morning to support his rugby.

Ellie Smith (9), of Milton School, said the secret to competing against an All Black was to protect her rip tags by dancing around the field. Aaron Smith was her favourite because he had the same last name as her, she said.

The All Blacks play Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin tonight, kicking off at 7.05.

The Otago Daily Times understands the match is expected to attract a crowd of about 15,000.


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