All Blacks excited about return to Christchurch

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NZ_Huddle Getty Images The All Black in training in Christchurch.

Christchurch, New Zealand – Saturday's return to Christchurch is “significant” for the All Blacks, but the world champions need no extra motivation as they prepare to face Ireland, says New Zealand captain Richie McCaw.

The All Blacks have not played a Test in New Zealand's second largest city since 2010 when they beat Australia in a Tri-Nations clash. In February 2011 an earthquake devastated much of the central city, killing almost 200 people and badly affecting infrastructure in the surrounding suburbs.

Rugby World Cup organisers were forced to strip the city of its seven matches later that year because Lancaster Park's playing surface had been badly affected and cracks had developed in the grandstands.

The local council, and central government, helped fund the redevelopment of Rugby League Park in Christchurch's inner-west to give the Canterbury Crusaders and Canterbury provincial side a temporary base and allow the city to host All Blacks Tests – the first of which is on Saturday against Ireland.

“It might give a little bit of motivation,” McCaw told reporters in his hometown on Friday. “I'd like to think it's there regardless but looking at the big picture, people getting the chance to watch the All Blacks play in Christchurch is quite significant really.”

McCaw said the team bus had driven through the city prior to their final captain's run training session on Friday, which meant he doubted he would need to “push any buttons” in his final words to the team as they look to seal the three-match series with a game to spare.

“We went for a drive through town on the way here, and guys, even myself, who hadn't been through there properly... you realise the significance of what's happened here.

“It was just a wee reminder of that. But that was probably enough (in terms of any final pre-match motivation). Pulling on the All Blacks jersey should be enough.”

The Canterbury Crusaders have turned the venue, which was constructed in just 100 days, into something of a fortress this year, having won all five of their games on the park and the closeness of the crowd to the sidelines made for an “exciting” atmosphere, he added.

After experiencing the enthusiasm generated by the Crusaders fans after the team had spent the entire 2011 Super Rugby season on the road, McCaw expected it to be intensified on Saturday.

“It will be nice running out here. It's a pretty cool atmosphere and... I guess it's a little bit noisier, but it's quite cool playing in a small stadium like this,” he said while adding he was able to pick out faces in the crowd from the park.

“It's just great from a Cantabrian's point of view to have test footy here and that's what we're looking forward to.” – Reuters

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