RWC Diary Day 1 - Arrival
31 August, 2011
|Flying Fijians fans at Auckland Airport. |
Well every single journey, however long and brutal, always begins with a single step and as the Flying Fijians stepped out of Auckland Airport on Monday, and into a cool New Zealand afternoon, there to welcome us on our way were the smiling faces of hundreds of fans and spectators. It was a magical moment as sky blue flags beset with the Union Jack and the royal golden lion looked magnificent as they were waved in unison to welcome Fiji’s gladiators.
On hand too was a Maori dance troupe and New Zealand dignitaries to formally welcome Fiji – the first team to officially arrive for Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2011. Team manager Pio Tikoisuva was overwhelmed with the reception and promised Fiji would be determined to be the last country to leave carrying the coveted William Webb Ellis trophy away. It was a comment that received a rapturous round of applause from those in attendance.
After the warm welcome Fiji were soon on the bus heading for their accommodation in the quaint town of Ohope, a five and a half hour journey through the Waikato and into the Bay of Plenty. While New Zealanders are known for their distinct love of sheep, in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, it’s cattle that rule.
WIth the official opening of rugby’s greatest act now only eight or so days away focus for the Flying Fijians has stepped up in earnest. This was quite clear prior to our departure for New Zealand last Monday when giant number eight Sisa Koyamaibole stood up and spoke candidly to the players during the morning team meeting about their self-discipline and the importance of maintaining that self-discipline through the RWC.
It seems to have been a talk that’s hit home as, despite almost nine hours of travelling, the players put in two exceptional performances in training today at Rugby Park, the home ground of the Eastern Bay of Plenty Rugby Sub-Union located at Whakatane.
Despite the grueling sessions the players still found time to meet and greet the many school children who’d come down to watch them train, and why wouldn’t you – the last time an international team visited or played in Whakatane was the Wallabies over 50 years ago.
On the injury front winger Napolioni Nalaga seems to be fully healed from his fractured finger as he now participates fully in all aspects of training while centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu returned to full contact training today with lock Sekonaia Kalou also beginning to take a more active role in training.
It’s bitterly cold here in New Zealand at the moment and particularly in Ohope where the rain has started to pour down at 9:00 PM as this article is being written. While it may be great acclimatization for the players during the day in the evening all we want is a warm bed and at least two or three blankets.
It’s another full day of work and training tomorrow so, unless the Ohope climate miraculously warms up overnight, getting out of bed could be a struggle…!
Moce mada. Click here to view physiotherapist William Koong talking on the progress of injured players Gabiriele Lovobalavu and Sekonaia Kalou.
Click here to view players signing autographs for school children at Rugby Park in Whakatane.