Fans turn matches into fancy dress parades
AUCKLAND, 4 Oct. - Fans are the lifeblood of any sporting event and New Zealand has had them by the millions for Rugby World Cup 2011.
Rugby New Zealand 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden trumpeted the tournament as one which would be played in a "Stadium of Four Million" but even he could perhaps not have envisaged the staggering response.
The country's population were challenged to adopt a nation as well as their own once the action kicked off and they answered the call magnificently, colourfully and emotionally.
When overseas supporters began to arrive it was sometimes difficult to distinguish them from the Kiwis.
And as they trooped into stadiums the length and breadth of the land, it looked more like fancy dress parties they were attending rather than rugby matches. Colossal effort and imagination went into many of the costumes.
Everyone of all ages had a laugh, everyone had a story, everyone made a friend.
Child's play: A young fan with a painted face waits for Fiji to arrive in Auckland
Wig wham: A Tongan shows his colours at the team welcome ceremony
Cross to blare: England fans party after seeing their team beat Argentina
Rocket men: Russia fans make a statement during the match against USA
Beyond the pail: Samoa fans sweat buckets with their headgear and pipe insulation
Head start: Romania fans go over the top with wigs for the match against England
Wales of a time: A Welsh fan turns up in a party outfit to entertain supporters
Chest wonderful: Fans have Georgia on their minds and everywhere else
Fancy free fairies: English fans dress up as fairies, or possibly angels
Well plaid: It takes brave hearts like these Scotland fans to wear so little