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Caleb Clarke says sensational All Blacks performance was for late grandpa - 'I wanted to play for him'

When he walked off the field yesterday, Caleb Clarke received a standing ovation from the Eden Park crowd for his stunning performance but it was the cheers of a small group that meant the most to him - his family.

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The young winger lost his grandfather earlier this year but said he felt his presence at Eden Park. Source: 1 NEWS

Clarke produced a superb outing in his first start as an All Black in yesterday's 27-7 win over the Wallabies which he revealed after the match was played in front of many of his family.

But the 21-year-old admitted there were plenty of nerves heading into the contest.

“I was still nervous, that was the funny thing,” he said after admitting last week he was anxious about his debut off the bench.

“I had quite a broken sleep, and was waking up with feelings of excitement and nervousness. It was just real awesome.

“This morning a lot of the boys told me when you get the ball, just run. You don’t have to think about anything else. And when you’re on defence, just tackle. That’s pretty much all I had in mind today.

“It was a lot of fun out there. It was real cool putting on this special jersey on home soil in a place I grew up in. I’m just real happy.”

Eden Park was also an old stomping ground for his father, Eroni, who starred for Auckland, the Blues and the All Blacks during the 1990s.

Clarke joked he couldn't find his father in the sea of black but he didn't need to.

“I just saw his face up on the screen like half the time. I didn’t know where he was sitting, but it was just cool to have him there."

Besides his father though, Clarke said there was another supporter there who was equally as important to him - his nana.

"The more special thing was having my Nan there in the crowd today. She has been through a lot, with her husband passing away."

Clarke's grandfather died in June hours before the youngster was set to play for the Blues, but he opted to play in the game and turned out a man-of-the-match performance against the Highlanders, which he later dedicated to him.

Like then, Clarke said he could feel his grandpa's support yesterday.

“I got to see my cousins and to share a special moment with her (his grandmother) when I got to see her. I had to wipe away a few tears… I could definitely feel my Grandpa’s presence. I wanted to just play for him. When I saw my Nana, that’s when the waterworks started.”

Clarke now heads away with the All Blacks to Australia for the Tri-Nations where he has a few small goals to work away at thanks to a chat with his dad.

“He had a simple message and that was just have fun, run hard and to connect with all the boys.

"I felt like I did that today.”