Fiji have become the first team to arrive in New Zealand for Rugby World Cup 2011 and received a rousing airport reception which included traditional islander singing and dancing and a Maori ceremony of welcome.
Their supporters also waved Fijian flags as the squad left Auckland by bus for a training camp at Whakatane on North Island before moving to their official training base at Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty on September 6th.
Auckland City councillor and former world mile record-holder John Walker told the Fiji squad: “Enjoy your stay, go home proud.”
Meanwhile, South Africa, Fiji’s opponents in Pool D, were given an official send-off in Pretoria by president Jacob Zuma who said the Springboks carried the hopes of 50 million South Africans on their shoulders, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) reported.
“You carry on your shoulders the dreams and aspirations of the whole nation,” President Zuma told the 2007 World Cup champions in the country’s capital ahead of the team’s departure on Thursday.
“We believe you can do it, you have what it takes. Go out there and do your best and your best is to bring the trophy back to Mzansi (home) – that is your national duty.”
Fiji open their campaign with a match against Namibia on September 10th while South Africa play Wales the following day.
The 2003 champions England are also on their way to New Zealand but flew out of London without their veteran second row forward Simon Shaw, who was unable to travel with his teammates because of a stomach upset.
“He will travel as soon as he is fit,” the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said in a statement.
Shaw, 37, who made his international debut in 1996, was part of the England squad who finished runners-up to South Africa in 2007.
England also open their tournament on September 10th with a Pool B match in Dunedin against 2007 third-place finishers Argentina.
World Tourism Sport Congress
For the first time this year, alongside the climax of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the World Sport Tourism Congress will take place on the luxury cruise ship – the P&O Pacific Dawn – celebrating the boom in sports tourism.
The event will comprise of four days of inspirational panel debates, leading-edge presentations and priceless networking opportunities, all conducted whilst cruising in style around New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands.
The fully-inclusive cruise package departs from Queen’s Wharf, Auckland on October 10th, returning on October 14th in time for the Rugby World Cup Semi Finals.
Themed “Sharing the Sport and Tourism Boom”, WSTC presents an opportunity for network and engage with industry’s elite, gain invaluable insights from the world’s leading experts and meet face-to-face with the key Sport Tourism buyers as deals are brokered for future sporting events.
Confirmed speakers include: Jeanine Pires (Minster Special Advisor, Rio 2016 Olympics & former President, Embratur), Geoffrey Lipman (Advisor to Secretary General UNWTO), Campbell Jamieson (Commercial Director, International Cricket Council) and Darren Mee (COO, TUI Travel PLC, Specialist & Activity Sector).
The delegate rate of £950 will include access to all sessions on the WSTC programme, four nights accommodation on board the P&O Pacific Dawn, as well as exclusive VIP receptions and gala dinners, as the ship cruises around New Zealand’s North Island.