Rugby World Cup fever kicks in across NZ
05 Sep 2011
It’s only four days until the seventh Rugby World Cup kicks-off in Auckland on Friday (09.09.2011), and rugby fever is kicking in all over New Zealand.
From the provinces to the main cities, there’s a flutter of flags, rousing team welcomes, last-minute grooming of venues, and fleets of traditional Māori waka / canoes on the water - even the revered Webb Ellis cup has had a polish - as New Zealand readies to celebrate the world’s greatest rugby event.
All but five of the rugby teams have landed - arriving over the past week to a series of colourful powhiri / welcome ceremonies with Māori haka at airports around the country.
And, with their first games still a few days away, many of the teams have been seen out and about enjoying some pre-match relaxation - including the England team which went sailing on an America’s Cup yacht on the Hauraki Gulf.
Flash mob haka
Less officially, one bunch of rugby fans is taking rugby fever to new levels, surprising Auckland locals with flash mob haka around the city.
A 50-plus group of young men appeared from nowhere to perform ear-splitting chants in central Auckland and at a suburban shopping mall during the weekend.
Their performances were caught on video by several bystanders and uploaded to YouTube, where the clips are gaining growing attention.
Northland’s warm sub-tropical green and blue hues have become the backdrop for a sea of red as the northern region embraces and welcomes three visiting teams - Canada, Tonga and Japan. The regional ‘Paint it Red’ reflects the common colour in the visitors’ national flags.
Auckland’s iconic Sky Tower is lighting up each night with the colours of a visiting team. This week it’s the turn of the England, South Africa, and Australia with a black-out for the All Blacks on Thursday.
Eagles on water
In the provincial North Island city of Wanganui, thousands of cheering locals turned out yesterday to watch the US Eagles rugby team paddle down the Whanganui River on Māori waka / canoes, accompanied by traditionally dressed Māori warriors.
Earlier in the afternoon, the team had been welcomed with a traditional ceremony of haka and waiata at Putiki Marae.
Reigning RWC champions - the Springboks were also welcomed on Wellington’s waterfront by crowds of cheering fans as the team left its hotel to walk to the Wharewaka / waka house for their official welcome.
In Queenstown, the airport was a sea of green chanting supporters to welcome the Irish team on Thursday.
Ireland back rower Stephen Ferris tweeted soon after: "Awesome to finally be here in New Zealand - and what a welcome at Queenstown Airport."
RWC opening night
Aucklanders and visitors will be in for a night to remember on opening night (Friday) with festivities due to begin late afternoon at Viaduct Harbour that will include 20 waka and a 600-strong haka party.
Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour will be lit up with the biggest fireworks display New Zealand has ever seen, while Eden Park - the scene of the opening match, New Zealand v Tonga - will host a spectacular welcome ceremony.
The 30-minute ceremony - featuring 1000 performers - will tell the story of New Zealand and its unique place in the Pacific, and represent the coming together of countries from around the world in pursuit of rugby's greatest prize.
An as-yet-unnamed New Zealand sporting legend will also have a special role in the opening ceremony.
Stadium of four million promises
Rugby World Cup chairman Bernard Lapasset, who arrived in Auckland on Wednesday, expects the opening ceremony to be the most exciting and spectacular in the history of Rugby World Cup.
"Fans attending the opening match and the millions around the world watching on television are going to be in for a real treat," Lapasset said.
"I think it will be a very extraordinary competition, a very great event in New Zealand because the whole country is behind it. Not just the team, not just the fans, but all four-million New Zealanders are behind the World Cup and it will be a very successful tournament."
Background: Rugby World Cup 2011
Rugby World Cup 2011 will be the biggest ever international event held in New Zealand.
Rugby World Cup 2011 is being held in New Zealand for the first time since the inaugural event in 1987.
Teams representing 20 nations will compete in 48 matches across 12 host cities between 9 September and 23 October 2011. The final will be held at Auckland's historic Eden Park.
Some 95,000 visitors are expected in New Zealand for the tournament.
Rugby World Cup 2011
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