New Zealand has celebrated one year to go until the New Zealand Lions Series 2017 with a fitting reminder of what’s at stake – on and off the field.
‘One year to go’ until The British & Irish Lions Series in New Zealand was marked on 3 June with an only-in-New-Zealand cultural ceremony involving the presentation of carved taiaha - a traditional Maori staff used in challenge - which will have significance for competing teams on the field as well as visitors coming to watch and experience the local culture and hospitality.
The ceremony centred on seven traditional Māori taiaha or spear-shaped weapons, which will become the official trophies for the 2017 series. The precious taiaha were hand-carved at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua and blessed before being presented to mayors and representatives of the seven host regions at the one-year-to-go celebration in Auckland.
New Zealand’s Māori culture plays a leading role in the spirit of rugby and is most evident in the haka or battle cry performed by the All Blacks before each game. Taiaha are also associated with a challenge and were chosen as trophies for their cultural meaning. The weapon is used in the wero - the traditional Māori challenge during a pōwhiri or formal welcoming ceremony. A wero is commonly given to heads of state and visiting dignitaries welcomed to New Zealand.
The special Lions Series taiaha will spearhead promotion in each host region during the 12-month build up to the series, before being awarded to winners of each match played in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive, Steve Tew says the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, the Maori All Blacks and the five Investec Super Rugby teams will be doing their very best to keep the taiaha in New Zealand but will face stiff opposition. The All Blacks will compete for the New Zealand Lions Series 2017 trophy.
More than 20,000 visitors are expected to follow The British & Irish Lions tour around New Zealand and the message to those planning the trip is “come for the rugby and experience it all”. The series spans nearly six weeks taking in seven of New Zealand’s most popular and geographically diverse regions from sub-tropical Northland in the top of the North Island to Otago in the depths of the South Island.
Host regions have begun preparing for the influx of visitors with additional infrastructure, plans for fan zones, fan trails and other match-related experiences for fans – as well as a variety of other local events and celebrations to coincide with the rugby action.
About the NZ Lions 2017 Series
A Lions tour only happens every 12 years and is a highlight on the global rugby calendar as well as a firm favourite with rugby-mad Kiwis.
New Zealand Rugby and The British & Irish Lions have agreed a programme of 10 matches during their 2017 series, kicking off in Whangarei, in the far north, on 3 June and finishing in Auckland on 8 July.
Three tests will be played against the All Blacks - two in Auckland at Eden Park on 24 June and 8 July respectively and the third in the capital city of Wellington on 1 July.
New Zealand Rugby will confirm full details of the ticket pricing and process for purchasing tickets in late June. Some 350,000 seats will be available with many of these tickets going on public sale in October.
About the host regions
Whangarei: The British & Irish Lions will kick off their 2017 tour of New Zealand at Whangarei’s Toll Stadium in the Northland region on 3 June against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. Sub-tropical Northland is a region steeped in Māori history and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds is the site where the nation of New Zealand emerged. Dolphins play in deep blue waters of the Bay of Islands while the Poor Knights Islands are “one of the top 10 dive sites in the world” according to Jacques Cousteau.
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Auckland: Two All Black test matches and a game against Auckland-based Super Rugby franchise the Blues will take place at Eden Park. Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city with activities to suit thrill seekers such as the Sky Tower Walk and Harbour Bridge Bungy as well as amazing food and wine on Waiheke Island.
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Rotorua: Rotorua International Stadium will be the venue when the Māori All Blacks take on The British & Irish Lions. The rich cultural history of Rotorua is showcased at Te Puia and the Pohutu geyser is a must see. Whether it’s a mountain bike through redwood trees or white water rapids you crave, Rotorua delivers.
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Hamilton: Waikato Stadium will be in full chorus when Super Rugby team the Chiefs take on The British & Irish Lions. The Waikato region is home to iconic tourist attractions The Hobbiton Movie Set and the incredible Waitomo cave system, along with the world famous Manu Bay surf break at Raglan.
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Wellington: Wellington, New Zealand's capital, will welcome The British & Irish Lions for two matches during their 2017 series. Weta Workshop make movie magic come alive at their base in Miramar and a tour of the studios is an amazing experience. For a beautiful city view take the cable car up Mt Victoria, and when you come back down to earth sample a delicious beer in New Zealand’s craft beer capital.
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Christchurch: Christchurch is home to the Crusaders, the most successful Super Rugby team and The British & Irish Lions will take them on in 2017. Christchurch’s emerging urban setting is the place to discover new bars, restaurants and cafes. The Garden City also offers some of New Zealand’s best golf at Terrace Downs, Clearwater and Pegasus Bay.
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Dunedin: New Zealand's only covered rugby ground will host The British & Irish Lions when they play the Highlanders in 2017. Dunedin’s beaches serve up some of the best surf in the country and the surrounding high country is a great place to go for a cycle. Local wildlife such as NZ fur seals and yellow-eyed penguins are always a highlight for visitors.
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