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It’s six years since I returned to my native land of New Zealand, six years too many. I’d particularly like to be down there right now, taking in the British & Irish Lions rugby tour. Alas, as ever, the day (and night) job got in the way and I’m stuck with watching the matches on TV.
It’s good to see travel retailers down under entering the spirit of the occasion. Firstly staff at The Loop Duty Free (Aer Rianta International) at Auckland Airport donned their favorite rugby jerseys (instead of their usual corporate uniform) to mark the arrival of the British and Irish Lions rugby team in New Zealand.
The staff in the arrivals duty free shop were among the first Kiwis to get a glimpse of the Lions team as they touched down after the long journey and made their way through to customs. The arrivals store has been decked out with goal posts, supporters’ kits and “all things rugby” so that international visitors arriving over the next six weeks will feel engaged with the theme, ‘Kick off your tour here’.
The tour has, of course, now kicked off. The Lions have two matches under their belts, including today’s loss to the Auckland Blues (yes, I was being polite in not mentioning the fact until now but my rampant bias and patriotism could be kept silent no longer) and they’re now headed south (perhaps in more ways than one) to face the mighty Crusaders in my hometown of Christchurch.
As anyone who has visited the country knows, rugby is a religion in New Zealand (and Christchurch its cathedral), so the Lions may have to start saying their prayers as it won’t get any easier from now. Already social media is awash with jokes about the Lions team (only because it is my job to present the facts, you understand, I’ll give you a taster: Warren Gatland takes the Lions out for a training run and tells the players to assume their normal position. So they all go and stand behind the goalposts and await the conversion…)
However, a word of warning to all (other) one-eyed Kiwis, there’s plenty of time left for things to come right. It’s a pretty sure bet that the cream of four nations will give the best of a single nation a heck of a test series. I’ll be testing your punditry abilities in our readers’ competition coming soon (by the way, I’m on the look-out for prizes from Kiwi, Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish companies – contact me please on Martin@MoodieDavittReport.com).
Even the Aussies have entered into the spirit of the occasion. Dynamic Australian travel retailer AWPL has launched a British & Irish Lions Tour pop-up store (also at Auckland Airport), selling all kinds of Lions-themed products. “Our pop-up store at Auckland Airport supporting the British & Irish Lions Tour of NZ is a great way to celebrate what we are certain will be a fantastic time for all involved,” says AWPL Managing Director Costa Kouros.
Will the Lions roar or will they slump off home with their manes mangled and their tails between their legs? We’ll know soon enough. The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, meaning the land of the long white cloud. For the British & Irish Lions though, it could be a cloud of a different colour. Big, menacing and all black.