More than 400 warriors, mainly Ngāpuhi, both male and female, welcomed the British & Irish Lions team to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds today for a spectacular Pōwhiri.
The New Zealand welcome, part of the DHL New Zealand Series, acknowledged the arrival to New Zealand of the Lions as part of the team’s six-week tour, which takes in seven regions.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager of the DHL NZ Lions Series, Nigel Cass said the reception for the team was a wonderful celebration that showcased New Zealand’s Manaakitanga.
“We’ve waited 12 years for the Lions to return to New Zealand and it’s fair to say the anticipation across the seven regions hosting matches, as well as throughout the rest of the country has been great.
“The opportunity to provide a unique New Zealand welcome to the Lions team and their supporters has been fantastic and the event put on by the Waitangi Treaty Grounds was incredible.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds Cultural Manager Mori Rapana said he was delighted with how the event went.
“It’s a big exercise pulling together a Pōwhiri of this scale, spanning so many different iwi but it’s all been worth it.
“The preparations have included practice sessions throughout Northland from Kaitaia to Whangarei, Auckland and even in Sydney. Members of Ngā Uri o Rāhiri a Sydney based group even flew over to participate at this awesome National Welcome.”
British & Irish Lions Tour Manager, John Spencer said the team was humbled by the occasion at Waitangi.
“The team was honoured by the welcome at Waitangi and genuinely moved by the occasion.
“The entire team was looking forward to the event and it was important to share our cultures in speeches and song at the event.”
During the welcome, the British & Irish Lions received three challenges. The first one, in front of ceremonial war canoe Ngātokimatawhaorua, was a private challenge for the Lions squad.
After the first challenge, the Lions made their way to the top of the Treaty Grounds in front of four thousand fans and more than 400 warriors who faced them, ready for the second challenge.
The third and last challenge was in front of Te Whare Rūnanga and was followed by ceremonial speeches and song inside, including from representatives of the British & Irish Lions in Gaelic, Scottish, Welsh and English.