RWC 2011: Samoa welcomed on 'spectacular journey'
Story and Photo: www.rugbyworldcup.com
ROTORUA, 8 Sept. - Hundreds of fans of all ages were on hand to greet Samoa at a welcoming ceremony at Te Papaiouru marae on Thursday.
The team arrived 40 minutes late after a morning training session to be met by children from Sunset primary school, dressed in red and blue, drumming on white buckets.
Inside the Tamatekapua meeting house, the Samoans were received by Rugby World Cup Limited chairman Bernard Lapasset and Rotorua mayor Kevin Winters.
"Today represents the beginning of a spectacular journey," Lapasset said.
"It is a shared journey with your family, friends, teammates and fans. You are ambassadors for your country and for rugby."
The visitors answered with two songs to express their gratitude and pay respect to their country.
"(The songs are) about being proud of where we come from, but still being humble," second row Filipo Levi said.
In addition to their World Cup caps, the team received totems made of green stone and were told to wear them with pride during the tournament.
Samoan pride was on display among the crowd at the ceremony.
"Everybody came out of the woodwork to support our brothers," spectator Sylvia Tapuke said.
"It was an awesome feeling of pride on both sides. I'm so glad my children were here to witness it."
Her husband Kelvin said wellwishers not at hand were present in spirit.
"It's for the people that couldn't be here as well. Either in Samoa or elsewhere, through us they are here."
Samoa open their Rugby World Cup campaign with a Pool D match against Namibia at Rotorua International Stadium on Wednesday, 14 September.