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Teams Arrive As RWC Gathers Steam

Teams Arrive As RWC Gathers Steam

By Laura Westbrook and Michael Field

AUCKLAND ( Media Watch): After months of anticipation and preparation in New Zealand, the party is finally set to start.

It's just 11 days until the first ball is kicked in the Rugby World Cup and today the first team, Fiji - including controversial player Leone Nakarawa - arrived in Auckland.

New Zealand gave Nakarawa, a Fijian soldier, an exemption to the sanctions imposed on the Fiji military following the 2006 military coup.

However with traditional Maori welcomes planned for many arrivals, there has been criticism that organisers have not briefed overseas players about the cultural significance of powhiri.

The United States team, which arrives in Whanganui on Sunday, had initially turned down a ceremonial waka (traditional canoe) welcoming, which was supposed to be the highlight for the 46-person American party.

Eagles media manager Dallen Stanford said their refusal to take part was fuelled by concerns the US players could get wet and fall ill and they had not realised the significance of the waka-welcoming.

"Had we known that, which in hindsight it would be great if they'd told us, we would love to have accepted straight away," he said.

"Perhaps we should have done our homework, but I do think it was the responsibility of the organisers as well."

A Rugby World Cup media spokesman said there had been no specific information given to teams about New Zealand culture, including powhiri and other Maori traditions.

"They haven't been given a specific 'handbook' on Maori culture."

England is the next team to arrive, early on Wednesday, followed by the Japanese and French squads later the same day.


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