(L-R) Adam Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams and Matt Todd observe a minute silence for victims of the earthquake

US RUGBY players think of ourselves as entertainers and, after the two big earthquakes in New Zealand, that’s what I think we go back to when we try to lift our community.

It’s fair to say that we felt pretty powerless after the earthquakes, especially the recent one which caused such devastation in Christchurch and claimed so many lives.

You don’t know how to make it better. You try to muck in and help people clean up their places and so on, but one way in which we can definitely make it better is performing on the rugby field. Sport does play a part in making people feel better about themselves. As Crusaders we’re linked closely with our community and we feel it’s our responsibility to help our people.

This recent earthquake was especially scary for me. We had just finished training at our base in Christchurch and I was at a pools complex in the centre of town. When the earthquake struck it felt like the roof was going to cave in. I was in the spa pool doing my recovery session with a mate and it felt like a wave pool. Another guy was in there too, and he tried to get out and make a run for it but he couldn’t stay upright.

We made our way outside and as my mate’s wife and child were across the other side of town, we had to set off to make sure they were okay. It was then that the enormity of the thing hit home. The devastation to the city was obvious and the people walking around were in a total state of shock.

I have my younger sister staying with me and my first thoughts were with her. I tried ringing but all the phone lines were down so you just don’t know. She came through it okay, but the feeling of helplessness is the worst.

Luckily everyone I know was okay, but for so many others it wasn’t a good ending. The inconvenience of having to stay at a mate’s place, rather than my city-centre apartment, pales in comparison to what so many people are going through.

Although the first earthquake in September was more of a shock, it just didn’t affect me as much – probably because there was no loss of life.

The earthquakes mean no World Cup games will be held in Christchurch. It’s a real disappointment for everyone in the city, but most people are keeping it in perspective and are saying to themselves, ‘It’s only a rugby tournament’.

There will be pressure on the All Blacks to do well for our community at the World Cup following this disaster, but you can’t dwell on it too much.

Hopefully I’ll be involved. As far as I’m concerned, you just have to prepare well, play with composure and skill, and hopefully the result will go your way. That’s how I see it. Put it this way, we certainly won’t lack motivation.

To make a donation to the earthquake appeal, visit redcross.org.uk/nzearthquake or call 0845 054 7200.

This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.

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