Fiji first to arrive for Rugby World Cup 2011

(Rugby News Service) Tuesday 30 August 2011
Fiji first to arrive for Rugby World Cup 2011
A traditional dancer welcomes members of the Fijian squad to Auckland

AUCKLAND, 30 Aug. – Fiji were 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 6 September.

Auckland City councillor and former world mile record-holder Sir 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 10 September 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 open their tournament on 10 September with a Pool B match in Dunedin against 2007 third-place finishers Argentina.

RNS rg/sg