29 Aug 2011

Fiji first to touch down for Rugby World Cup

8:05 pm on 29 August 2011

The first of 20 teams vying for the Rugby World Cup has arrived in New Zealand.

The Fijian squad arrived at Auckland International Airport on Monday afternoon ahead of the tournament that begins on 9 September.

About 300 supporters created a party-like atmosphere, waving Fijian flags and singing as they waited at a special welcome area for their team to arrive.

When the Fiji players finally came on the stage, loud cheering erupted and a Maori kapa haka group performed a welcome before the team got on their bus.

Controversial team member Leone Nakarawa, who has been given a temporary visa to enter New Zealand only after he resigned from Fiji's military, assured media he has no intention of rejoining after the tournament.

Fiji have reached the quarterfinal stage of the Rugby World Cup twice, in 1987 and 2007.

Their first Rugby World Cup game is against Namibia in Rotorua on 10 September.

The next teams due to arrive in New Zealand are England, Japan and France on Wednesday.

Ireland's team arrives on Thursday afternoon, as do those of Romania, Samoa, Argentina and Namibia.

Each of the teams will be greeted officially at the airport and will later have either a marae or civic ceremony.