NZ Herald

Thousands greet All Blacks

MORE than 200,000 people have packed central Auckland to see dancing and fist pumping All Blacks celebrate their Rugby World Cup victory.

Throngs of people crowded footpaths along Queen St and massive crowds filled Wellesley St and Britomart Transport Centre to catch a glimpse of the All Blacks and the newly-won Webb Ellis Cup.

A ute carrying injured star first five Dan Carter, assistant coach Steve Hansen and prop John Afoa led the parade around 2.40pm.

They were followed by the entire All Blacks squad and training staff.

Captain Richie McCaw, veterans Mils Muliaina and Brad Thorn, head coach Graham Henry and the Webb Ellis Cup were carried on a truck at the rear of the procession.

Lock Ali Williams was among the most enthusiastic of the All Blacks - repeatedly running into the crowd to sign autographs and celebrate with fans.

Star halfback Piri Weepu also jumped from his ute to deliver an impromptu dance, while first five Aaron Cruden was visibly delighted with the support shown for the team.

But the biggest cheers of the afternoon were reserved for McCaw, who held the Webb Ellis Cup aloft along the length of Queen Street.

He told TV3 the reception the team had received was "unbelievable" and a tribute to the support New Zealanders had given the All Blacks.

One of the most touching moments of the parade came when he and his head coach of seven years, Graham Henry, presented the cup to the crowd.

Another All Blacks victory parade is set to be held in Christchurch tomorrow.

The city was unable to stage any of its scheduled Rugby World Cup games because of the damage done to AMI Stadium by the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.

Its parade will start from the corner of Rolleston Avenue and Hereford Street at 3.30pm and will move north before finishing at the North Hagley Park Fanzone.

A third parade will be held in Wellington on Wednesday.

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