7 Jul 2015

'All we needed to do was to call John Campbell'

5:44 pm on 7 July 2015

A huge crowd lined the streets of the Samoan capital central Apia today to honour the Manu Samoa and All Blacks rugby teams.

The All Blacks travelled in decorated, open-sided Samoan buses through the city streets but the Manu Samoa team hit the pavement, perhaps showing they could handle the heat which they believe will give them the homeground advantage.

The two nations will clash for the first time on Samoan turf tomorrow in a Test Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele said had been a long time coming.

"For many many years we sought for the All Blacks to come to Apia Park. We asked and the Maori All Blacks came. Then the Junior All Blacks were sent," he said.

"The All Blacks, however, remained an elusive Scarlet Pimpernel and we wondered if we were asking the wrong questions.

"If only we had known that all we needed to do was to call John Campbell."

Captain Richie McCaw during a parade for the New Zealand All Blacks.

All Black captain Richie McCaw Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Tuilaepa assured the crowed he was joking, saying the All Blacks are in Samoa out of choice, and to accommodate the wish of a neighbouring union and fellow rugby-loving nation.

"The very things that make us rugby rivals tomorrow are the very things that also make us great friends," he said.

"A passion for the game, a determination to beat the odds, a country of adoring and sometimes demanding fans and an intense pride in our respective colours.

"Tomorrow history will be made for rugby in our small nation and in the Pacific Islands."

Police keep the crowds at bay during the speeches at today's parade.

Police keep the crowds at bay during the speeches at today's parade. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Lundy

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw told the crowd his team had been blown away by the welcome.

"When the All Blacks climbed on the plane yesterday in Auckland to fly up here, I think we had a wee bit of an idea about what we'd see," he said.

"In the short time we've been here it has been absolutely amazing.

"We got off the plane and travelled into the hotel, seeing the streets all lined with flags and painted coconuts, and people waving truly made us feel welcome."

McCaw said one of the unique things about New Zealand was that it comprised many cultures and that the All Blacks team represents those cultures.

"When this game was announced to be played, I know all of us realised that it was going to be something unique, something special, to come and play in Apia. It's something that I know the guys have truly got excited about."

"A lot of the boys coming playing here will have family and friends who are from these parts and will be hugely excited not only to play in front of the Samoan people but in front of a lot friends and family as well, and that's something that we all realise is a pretty unique thing and hugely exciting for all of us."

Coaching Samoan kids

All black Hika Elliot puttng a boy through his paces.

Hika Elliot puttng a Samoan boy through his paces. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Lundy.

Earlier today the All Blacks visited Apia's Marist Brothers Primary School, which has been attended by a number of Manu Samoa and All Blacks players during the years.

Teacher Lui Malaki said the students, teachers and parents had all been excited about the visit.

"We support both the teams. We feel blessed and very privileged to have the All Blacks here and for the first time we're seeing them up close and it's been an honour.

"It's an historical moment for us.

"Rugby is everything ... this is a very big moment."

Thirteen-year-old student Patrick saw his favourite All Black, Israel Dagg, and said having the team visit was huge.

"Having the All Blacks in our school is such a special moment for us. We love the All Blacks. The first time the All Blacks come to Samoa they visit our school, which is good for us."

The match kicks off at 2pm New Zealand time tomorrow.