The rugby union world champs, the All Blacks, were welcomed back to New Zealand by chanting crowds and a string of hakas on 4 November as they embarked on a three-day journey around the country to celebrate their third Rugby World Cup triumph.

After their arrival at Auckland Airport, the squad headed to Victoria Park in the centre of the city for a welcome ceremony, where the players signed autographs and took selfies with fans. As the All Blacks took their places on the stage, a group of schoolgirls performed another Maori welcome followed by a third haka of the morning from their male counterparts.

"You know, the boys left eight weeks ago, we went on a mission, which perhaps started four years ago but we left the shores eight weeks ago and knowing that the challenge we're gonna climb is a big mountain.

"Every single one of the men and women behind me did everything they could so that we could playing in the game last Saturday against Australia and give ourselves a chance and there's no better feeling than being able to hold that Cup up again and to do it two times in a row, I know we've probably annoyed a lot of other rugby teams around the world in the last four years but getting home this morning it certainly made all that hard work worthwhile," captain Richie McCaw told the cheering fans.

"And we can smile for the next four years and say we're world champions and that's pretty cool," he added.

Hailed as the greatest side to have ever played the game, New Zealand were the first team to win the World Cup three times and the first to retain the trophy following their 34-17 victory over neighbours Australia at Twickenham on 31 October.

"It was all about just staying calm and working through the process and you know, these guys are pretty good at that. They've been in some tough spots before and they're well led by Rich and the leadership group and they've got a lot of self belief and there's a good reason for that, they're all pretty good, handy rugby players. So Ben got back out there and away we went, and after that it was OK," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about the final against Australia.

For the likes of World Player of the Year Dan Carter, centres Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith and hooker Keven Mealamu, the events around the country will be a valedictory tour as all have played their last match for the country.

The festivities will continue with a street parade and reception in Christchurch on Thursday and more celebrations in the capital Wellington on Friday (6 November).