4 Sep 2011

Welcomes galore for Rugby World Cup teams

6:01 am on 4 September 2011

The buildup to the Rugby World Cup starting next Friday is accelerating, with many teams arriving in the country this weekend.

Thousands cheered the All Blacks as they arrived for their official welcome at Aotea Square in Auckland for the Rugby World Cup.

The biggest response was for the captain Richie McCaw, who told the crowd the team was both enjoying the support and keeping aware of the big job ahead.

In a later media conference, coach Graham Henry said he would announce his team in the next few days for Friday's opening encounter against Tonga.

Thousands of supporters also turned out to welcome Manu Samoa at Telstra Stadium in Manukau, many carrying the Samoan flag and wearing the team's colours.

The South African and United States teams arrived on Saturday morning and hundreds of supporters turned out to greet the French team as it arrived for its official welcome.

French rugby union coaches Emile Ntamack (left), Marc Lievremont (centre) and Didier Retiere (right) at the team's offical welcoming ceremony.

Earlier, Namibia's squad was welcomed at Gisborne's Te Poho-o-Rawiri marae. About 250 people were there to greet them with haka and waiata.

Italy had a formal welcome at Nelson's Whakatau marae on Saturday afternoon.

Springboks' coach not so confident

The Springboks were greeted by a loud and excited crowd of about 150 fans at Wellington airport when they landed in the early hours of Friday morning.

If they win the tournament, South Africa will become the first triple winner of the cup.

They are the defending champions, and they beat the All Blacks 18-5 on their home soil a fortnight ago, but coach Peter de Villiers says he's not confident of success this time.

He says South Africa are not currently the best team in the world, and playing at home will give the All Blacks an advantage.

Winger Bryan Habana says New Zealand and Australia deserve their rankings as the world's top two teams respectively.

The Springboks' first match is next Sunday against Wales, who arrived in the capital earlier on Friday.