All Blacks and Brave Blossoms lift spirits

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 15 September 2011
All Blacks and Brave Blossoms lift spirits
John Kirwan wants his Japan team's rugby to inspire the nation

HAMILTON, 15 Sept. - Players from New Zealand and Japan attended a benefit breakfast on Thursday to show solidarity as two nations that have experienced tragic and difficult times.

The teams came together to raise funds and awareness for the Christchurch and Japanese earthquake appeals, ahead of their Pool A match at Waikato Stadium on Friday.

Brave Blossoms coach John Kirwan said it was easy for those who weren't affected by the disasters to take things for granted.

"(Rugby) is just a game. How can we go into camp and enjoy ourselves when people are suffering?" said the former All Black wing.

"We stay in really nice hotels, have three meals a day and we get out here and play this great game."

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said the people of Japan and Christchurch are still firmly in the minds of the New Zealand players.

"There's lots of Christchurch people in the All Blacks team, so I hope our presence can help the people in some small way," he said.

"It's great to see the Japan guys here. Our thoughts go back to the people in Japan, just like the people of Christchurch."

Inspiring a nation

Kirwan believes his team has an obligation to play brave rugby on Friday to inspire the Japanese people.

"Our job, regardless of the result, is to show courage and commitment so that the people who get up the next morning that have no house and have lost loved ones, they can at least have some little light that will keep them going," he said.

Several items were auctioned during the breakfast, including an All Blacks jersey bought for more than 5,000 New Zealand dollars and a Brave Blossoms jersey for 2,600. The function raised about 50,000.

Although there are no World Cup matches being played in Christchurch because of earthquake damage, the New Zealand squad will visit the city on Saturday for several days and hold a fan event at the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre on Sunday.

Both teams will observe a minute's silence prior to Friday's match to remember those killed in the tragedies.

RNS bw/sk/nb/ar/sw