The lights dim in the long black wind tunnel before the Kiwis’ legendary Maori chant blares out. The man, holding a white adidas rugby ball, has 10 seconds to compose himself.
Then the wind machine is cranked up to a furious speed before he attempts to battle through the thumping base and intense flickering lights to score a try.
Nestled under the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges on South Bank on a sunny Saturday morning, adidas’ unforgiving Force of Black challenge is in London to celebrate the defending Champions’ arrival.
The All Blacks are the overwhelming favourites to retain the Rugby World Cup. There are 12 players remaining from their 2011 success and with six of their experienced stars, including captain Richie McCaw, hanging up their boots after this tournament, many people expect this current crop to go out at the top.
Thousands of rugby fans, many wearing the famous black shirt, have made it to the Thames for a rare opportunity get up close to Sonny Williams and Dan Carter. “We know that the World Cup is a totally different beast,” says a jet-lagged Sonny Williams, referring to his country’s record of 42 wins and just three defeats from 47 Tests since 2012 when current manager Steve Hansen took over.
“Coming here, we’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves and if we keep that mindset, we’re going to give ourselves the best chance.”
Fellow back Dan Carter is equally as focussed.
“I’d love to finish on a high – I’ve just got to concentrate and do whatever I can for this team,” he tells host Ugo Monye, “I’ve been playing in New Zealand for a long time so I’m looking forward to a new challenge of playing in France.”
The ensuing hours see Harlequins fly-half and fullback Nick Evans and England cricketer Stuart Broad appear while the F2 freestylers swap footballs for rugby balls to showcase their skills.
But it’s the star pull of the All Blacks that people have come to see.
As the sun sets on the river, attention turns to north-west of the river to the plush five-star Ham Yard Hotel in Soho. It is the setting for the premiere of a forthcoming TV documentary The Making Of Black.
The short film showcases the innovation and story of the iconic black jersey, featuring tales from Kiwis and British greats such as Gareth Edwards and Martin Johnson.
Few bet against more All Black history to be made come Halloween at Twickenham.