Captain Richie McCaw and coach Steve Hansen and their All Blacks were stunned by the rapturous welcome home they received in Auckland on Wednesday.
More than 2000 fans packed into the arrivals hall with noise levels as loud as a rock concert. All Blacks fans crowded Auckland airport for the world champions’ return home on Wednesday.
All Blacks fans crowded Auckland airport for the world champions’ return home on Wednesday. Some had been there since 4am, waiting patiently for their heroes – the All Blacks who won their third World Cup and did it in style with back-to-back victories sealed in a 34-17 win against Australia in the final last Sunday.
They finally emerged at around 7.30am with McCaw holding the Webb Ellis Cup alongside Hansen. “We’ve got used to having it,” Hansen smiled when asked about the World Cup which they have been holding onto since the 2011 triumph in Auckland.
“I’d just like to say thanks for coming and we appreciate your support. We had a bit of an idea that a few people were getting excited about the whole thing back here. “It’s nice to come home part of a team that achieved something that has never been done before. It is an honour and a privilege to be part of it.
“This reception is awesome. We expected a few people out here this morning but not this many. We can’t wait to get around the rest of the country and share the Cup with everybody. “Every part of New Zealand loves the All Blacks so what is ours is theirs.”
On a personal level, Hansen was eager to catch up with his family. “I’m pretty keen to get home and see the kids actually. We’ve got six kids so I’m looking forward to seeing them and being home.” A tired looking McCaw said: “Thanks for everyone coming out early. The support we have had has been amazing.”
After a gruelling campaign, McCaw said it was good to be back home. “It will be nice to be in our own beds. We’ve been in about 12 hotels. But we are looking forward to getting around the country and saying thanks.”
Retiring centre Conrad Smith echoed those thoughts as he scanned the packed surroundings.
“We knew we had a lot of support when we were playing but to experience it like this is pretty amazing. It is going to be a pretty cool couple of days around New Zealand. “I just walked in and wanted to find my wife and son who were on a different flight. But going through customs you could just hear the noise and the chanting and you knew there were a lot of people waiting for us. It’s great.”
The only thing that disappointed halfback Aaron Smith was Auckland’s lousy weather.
“It is always good to be home. We came home expecting the sun because it’s summer but I hear it’s raining,” he said. “But I can’t wait to show everyone this beautiful cup.”
Smith said coming home helped the reality of their achievement sink in.
“When the final whistle went it was just a huge sense of relief and I thought about all the hard work that went into this,” he said. “Just to achieve this with a good bunch of men is awesome. It is a dream come true. I am so proud of what we have achieved. I think it’s starting to sink in now. “Over there it was just the team and our families but now we’re back home we get to show everyone the trophy so it’s awesome.”
Giant lock Brodie Retallick thanked the fans for their welcome.
“It’s so amazing to see all these people out here so thanks to everyone who has got up early to come out. “I most look forward to getting home and sleeping in my own bed. “We have had a great time over there and we achieved what we wanted to but there is nothing like being home.”
Man of the match from the final and player of the year Dan Carter was delighted with what will be his final welcome home in these colours. He has retired as an All Black and now gets set to start a club career in France.
“It never gets old really,’ he said of the cheering crowd at the airport. “It’s such a special feeling … we are all proud New Zealanders. To come home and see the support that we have got is pretty amazing. It’s a dream homecoming really.”