New Zealand has welcomed Canada to the 2011 RUgby World Cup with a heart-warming ceremony at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands.
Being invited to a Powhiri, or welcome, at the Treaty Grounds was extremely significant, as they are considered the birthplace of modern New Zealand and very few people are offered such a privilege.
"It's obviously quite an honour to be invited to this place," Canada's captain Pat Riordan said. "It was very humbling, especially at such an important place in the nation's history."
So significant was Canada's invitation to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds that their squad was only one of 20 invited to have their official Powhiri in such a special place.
Earlier in the day, six members of Canada's Rugby World Cup squad attended a smaller welcome at a spiritual place known as Te Tii Marae, hosted by the local Iwi. This event was significant in itself for the team to recognize and respect the local population before being welcomed on a national scale.
"You don't go into someone's backyard without going through the front door," explains player Matt Evans.
At Waitangi, the ceremony began with the team walking as one toward the Marae, or spiritual building, where they were faced by three individual taki, or challenges, from Maori men. The taki is traditionally to determine whether a visitor's intentions are of peace or war. The taki was followed by a Te Karanga, or call of welcome, delivered by Maori women at the foot of the Marae.
The ceremony required captain Pat Riordan to lead the team and pick up leafs left by the Maori men calling out the challenge, while never breaking eye contact with them.
There were some gasps from the crowd when Riordan picked up the third and final fern, as the challenger swung a spear close to his head, but the Canadian captain did not flinch.
Overall, the squad's RWC liaison Billy Preston said the local people were incredibly impressed with the Canadian team's demeanour and that this kind of recognition was an honour.
"They were happy the way the whole ceremony went," Preston said. "It's huge. That's a national respect. For me, to be welcomed onto the Treaty of Waitangi is absolutely massive."
The Powhiri featured remarks by Eru Taurua, Ermia Henare and Pita Paraone, of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds Kaumatua, and return remarks by Riordan.
In welcoming the Canadian squad, Paraone, touched on the importance of the location of the Powhiri.
"Welcome to the champions of Canada," he said. "To the place where our country begins."
In speaking to the crowd, Riordan touched on the similarities between New Zealand and Canada and their respective residents and said his team was honoured to be invited to the Treaty Grounds.
He then led the team in the singing of O Canada, stating it was the team's turn to share some of their culture, after being given such a hospitable welcome.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Riordan was presented with an artwork signifying the joining of Canada and New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup and the squad members were presented with their official RWC caps by International Rugby Board CEO Mike Miller.
The team then gathered amidst the beautiful setting of the Bay of Islands to pose for photos and sign autographs with fans. Locals in the area have also welcomed the team as their own, with the Paint It Red campaign encouraging Northland residents to show support as they host Canada, Tonga and Japan.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.