British and Irish Lions 2017 Tour Pinboard – Match Day Experience

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NZ Maori v British & Irish Lions
ROTORUA, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 17: Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach poses for a selfie with Lions fans during the match between the New Zealand Maori and the British & Irish Lions at Rotorua International Stadium on June 17, 2017 in Rotorua, New Zealand. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Last Word on Rugby, by Scott Hornell.

Over the course of this British and Irish Lions 2017 tour, the one standard is being ‘rugby united’. That is, being welcoming of and an active member of the tour. Visitors, like the guest, all have an active interest–which is why it is referred to as ‘rugby united’.

British and Irish Lions 2017 Tour Pinboard – Match Day Experience

#rugbyunited – Shared Respect in Rugby

It is a true characteristic of the game, that both teams before and after the match, are respectful. That means, in 80 minutes of contact, it is a battle. But once the whistle is blown, a mutual respect is evident.

That factor exists within the Maori All Blacks and British and Irish Lions. It is seen below. It is something that is bigger than the individual. It is ‘rugby united’. Not just a social media movement, but a real contributor to the tour pinboard.

As well, there is that same level of respect in the fan zone. Something witnessed first hand by Last Word on Rugby, it is a case of ‘visitor meets host’. So in the exact same way that occurs across World Rugby, you welcome the visitor.

Shaking hands is the most basic etiquette involved, more obviously by the 21st century model of the obligatory selfie. When faced with a ‘sea of red’ that welcoming spirit can be quite daunting. 28,000 fans in Rotorua, and with at least 30% of those being visitors, so fan engagement between the opposing nations is a benefit and an element of this DHL Lions 2017 Series.

While enjoying the rugby, results on the field have been shared too. The Lions team have won three games, and now….lost two.

Highlanders Victory Continues Proud Otago Rugby History

Along the route of the 2017 tour pinboard, steps have been taken by the tour party. Visits to Auckland, Waitangi, Christchurch, followed by a trip to Dunedin. A good time, and as described, the ‘Scotland of the South’ will have been a welcome sight.

The architecture might have seemed straight out of a scene from Edinburgh. Gothic, Georgian and Elizabethan, the traditional look was contrast by the modern lines of Forsyth-Barr Stadium Tuesday night. And inside that stadium, safe from the harsh elements, the touring British and Irish Lions felt their second defeat to a Super Rugby side – 23-22.

What the fans enjoyed most though, will have been the camaraderie. The conviviality, friendly hosts and the easy going nature of the people is something special. That extends well past the hotel room door too. To the cafes, diners and local restaurants.

Visitors who travel by air or road, each look to partake in the local surroundings. The groups and individuals, they all will feel that it is a fine experience that stands with them through time.

Lions Fans Join With Locals to Make Guinness World Record

While making their way north through the country, the loyal Lions fans who traveled to New Zealand for the opening games, they would have arrived in ‘RotoVegas’ not knowing the social plans of the central North Island town.

Popular with visitors, the natural attractions include the cultural aspect. And Maori representation is a characteristic of the fixture which was used to celebrate the visitors being in town. And as a celebration, together locals and visiting Lions fans were invited on Saturday to ‘make up the numbers’. Numbers that would successfully set a new Guinness World Record: the largest group to participate in a Haka.

British and Irish Lions 2017 Tour Pinboard – Match Day Experience

Experiences like this all undoubtedly adds to the fan experience. When conjoined with the ‘match day experience’ it makes for wonderful memories. Men, women and traveling groups might have enjoyed the local festivities, but when the hour rounds for them to visit the stadium, it is ‘game on’.

And the match day experience is something which cannot be replicated on paper. It might see local councils and tourism ventures plan for, but on the day it is fluid. The 7000 plus people who gathered for the Haka, the 28,000 who entered the ground–the weather, it is all changeable. They only add to the wonderful environment that LWOR was present for.

20,000 were the expected overseas numbers that could be expected. But again, that is not a reflection on the whole tour, as we might well see many many more by the time of the opening test on June 24. The local English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh communities also plan to support the Lions.

If the attraction of the British and Irish Lions makes for anything, it is that the ‘once in a 12 year’ tour which is very popular. Fans; and players, will remember this forever.

“Main photo credit”

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