Teams given warm welcome to Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand
The 12 competing teams, match officials and the global rugby family were officially welcomed to Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand on Monday in a ceremony hosted at SkyCity Theatre in Auckland.
Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, officially welcomed the tournament participants to Auckland, with just five days to go until the long awaited and highly anticipated tournament kicks off at the world-famous Eden Park on 8 October in front of a record-breaking crowd for a women’s match of more than 30,000 fans.
Following the necessary decision to postpone the tournament by a year due to the effects of the global pandemic, Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand promises to be rugby’s greatest family reunion, a truly special and transformational showcase of the best of women’s rugby, launching the sport into a golden decade ahead.
Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand, said: “It’s an honour to welcome rugby’s finest wāhine toa (women champions) from around the world to Aotearoa (New Zealand) for this hugely anticipated Rugby World Cup.
“I know the wonderful communities in Auckland and Whangārei will get behind the games and make this a World Cup to remember.
“Rugby is bigger than just a game in New Zealand. For many a New Zealander, it’s part of who we are. The black jersey and silver fern hold a very special place in the hearts of many New Zealanders.
“I’m delighted that for the world’s elite 15s women, the international stage has come to the southern hemisphere for the first time – and at such an exciting time for women’s rugby, and indeed for women’s sport.
“The measure of success for this World Cup is not just the numbers watching each game, and who raises the silverware come November 12. Its most important legacy will be the tamariki (youth) who see themselves represented on the field, who are inspired to join their local club or to kick a ball around with their friends at school.
“Alongside the players and match officials, I also wish to acknowledge the officials, organisers and supporters who I’m sure will make this a tournament to remember. My very best wishes to all teams competing in the tournament.”
Alan Gilpin, World Rugby Chief Executive, said: “Today marks a truly exciting moment as we are just days away from the first women’s Rugby World Cup to be hosted in the southern hemisphere becoming a reality.
“The event will celebrate the best of rugby and the best of New Zealand, and our hosts have displayed their famous ‘manaakitanga’ spirit of hospitality in welcoming the competing teams from all corners of the globe. Our thanks and gratitude go the New Zealand Government, host cities, the organising committee, our commercial partners MasterCard, Defender, DHL, Capgemini and Canon and all other stakeholders, for their hard work and dedication to bring us to this historic moment.
“The spirit of the tournament will be rugby’s greatest family reunion, a celebration of togetherness, resilience and inspiration following the challenges of the pandemic. With preparations now complete, we are very excited to be here, and the players and teams are ready to inspire future generations with their passion, skill and excellence on and off the field of play.
“The development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade. Our mission is a sport where every girl and boy has equal opportunity. Where targeted investment in the women’s game drives transformational change. Where we have strong and sustainable global competitions, growth and retention plans at every level.
“Rugby World Cup 2021 promises to be a very special event, which will springboard the sport into a golden era of opportunity, accelerating the phenomenal rise of women’s rugby on a global basis. I wish the best of luck to all teams competing in this very special event.”
New Zealand co-captain Ruahei Demant said: “It’s a huge honour for us to host this tournament, it’s very special. Thinking back to 2011 when we hosted the men’s World Cup and how much that inspired the nation, we hope that this World Cup can do the same for many New Zealanders and that our country can get out and support the teams.”
England captain Sarah Hunter said: “It’s special to be here. We’ve been waiting a long time and the welcome we’ve had has been absolutely incredible. Hearing that over 30,000 fans are coming to watch on the opening day is incredible and thanks to the work that’s gone on in New Zealand to get behind this tournament so we can showcase just how ready we are to play. Every team is ready to go and we can’t wait for that opening day on Saturday.
Fiji captain Sereima Leweniqila said: “We are grateful to be here. It has been a journey, we’ve been through some tough times just to be here so we are just grateful and ready to get out there.”
The welcome event was hosted by World Rugby commentator and popular New Zealand broadcaster Rikki Swannell and began with an official cultural welcome to the teams, before the captain of each team and a representative of the match officials was invited on to stage to be presented with their participation medal and cap.
The players cheered and clapped along to a Pasifika dance performance focused on female empowerment before the welcome ceremony concluded with words of inspiration from four young female poets from Papakura High School; Umisuma (Rosaline) Petelo, Pauline Kaulave, Ilhaam Sheik Freed and Mercy Lauesi, who delivered the Champions poem.