Powhiri, haka and a hymn


Af­ter months of an­tic­i­pa­tion the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions ar­rived in New Zealand to rous­ing scenes at Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Wed­nes­day.

It took just a few min­utes for the Lions to send shiv­ers up Kiwi spines, with their singing of the Welsh hymn Calon Lan a beau­ti­ful re­sponse to the Maori chal­lenge.

Dressed in suits and ties, the Lions stood qui­etly as a Maori cul­tural group per­formed a powhiri, pulling their waka to shore in a metaphor of greet­ing, then lay­ing down the first of many chal­lenges the Lions will face.

The re­sponse from the tour­ing party was just as dra­matic, even if per­formed stand­ing still en masse in for­mal clothes, in stark con­trast to tat­toos, feath­ers and tra­di­tional Maori cloth­ing.

Calon Lan was cho­sen by the Lions play­ers for this tour, as a song to fol­low their New Zealand greet­ing. It is a Welsh hymn writ­ten in the 1890s. A hymn that has be­come associated with Welsh rugby, sung be­fore al­most ev­ery test match in­volv­ing Wales.

This Lions team has a Welsh cap­tain in Sam War­bur­ton, with for­mer Wales coach War­ren Gat­land as coach.

Taken lit­er­ally, Calon Lan means a clean heart or a pure heart.

Since its trans­for­ma­tion from hymn to rugby an­them, the mean­ing has shifted and is now more about be­ing true to your­self and to your team.

Af­ter their pow­er­ful first steps on to New Zealand soil, the Lions were greeted in the pub­lic wait­ing area, by fans three or four rows deep.

Fans adorned in Bri­tish Isles red yelled out the play­ers’ names as they ar­rived one-by-one, and some stopped to chat, with Jerry Martin us­ing a wildly flapped Ir­ish flag as a player magnet.

The Lions ar­rived not by Bri­tish Air­ways, Air New Zealand or Aer Lin­gus, but on a Qan­tas flight.

The Lions have a 3900kg of bag­gage in to­tal, roughly equat­ing to 9731 rugby balls. Most of their equip­ment will have been shipped to New Zealand a cou­ple of months ago.

The Lions first game is on Satur­day, June 3 ver­sus the New Zealand Bar­bar­ians at Okara Park in Whangarei.

Over the next month or so they will play the three test matches against the All Blacks as well as games against the Blues, Cru­saders, High­landers, New Zealand Maori, Chiefs and Hur­ri­canes.


Lions coach War­rren Gat­land re­cieves a hongi on ar­rival at Auck­land Air­port.

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