All Blacks pay touching tribute to Diego Maradona ahead of Tri Nations clash against Argentina

George Flood
·2 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The All Blacks paid touching tribute to the late Diego Maradona ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against Argentina.

Argentine and sporting icon Maradona - widely considered one of the greatest footballers of all time - died at his home in Tigre on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack aged 60.

His death has led to an outpouring of grief across Argentina and the wider world, with three days of national mourning declared in the country and thousands visiting his coffin as it laid in state at the presidential palace on Thursday and then lining the streets of Buenos Aires before Maradona was laid to rest in a private ceremony.

Argentina’s men’s rugby union side - of which Maradona was a big fan - returned to action on Saturday three days after his passing and will no doubt have been touched by New Zealand’s gesture ahead of kick-off in the Tri Nations fixture at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Australia.

With the Pumas lined up to face his side’s customary pre-match Haka, All Blacks captain Sam Cane stepped forward and laid down onto the pitch a New Zealand jersey that featured Maradona’s name and no10, to cheers from the crowd.

<p>All Blacks captain Same Cane lays down a no10 jersey in memory of late Argentine legend Diego Maradona</p>Getty Images

All Blacks captain Same Cane lays down a no10 jersey in memory of late Argentine legend Diego Maradona

Getty Images

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s contest, Argentine coach Mario Ledesma recalled what a big supporter Maradona - who scored 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina, captaining them to World Cup glory in 1986 and later coaching the team for two years - was of all the country’s various national teams.

"He would watch tennis, hockey, rugby, football, whenever there was an Argentina jersey he was there and he was an example of how to represent that jersey," he said.

"He's a big figure in our country and he epitomised a lot of the way the Argentinians are. We'll try to remember him the best way possible, on the field representing the colours."