The population of Whangarei has risen dramatically with the influx of thousands for the first up match of the British & Irish Lions tour tonight. Lions fans say they're feeling the great warm hospitality from the New Zealand public.
Despite torrential rain, Whangarei is abuzz with the thousands of Lions and local fans.
Whangarei Mayor, Sheryl Mai says, "It's massive and the best thing is the rain has stopped yay!! It was forecast to ease and it seems to have stopped so that means everything is going to be beautiful for the game."
Whangarei restaurants, bars and accommodation providers are full and tickets to tonight's game were all but sold out.
British High Commissioner, Jonathan Sinclair says, "It's fantastic, it's massively exciting when you get the whole of the UK England Scotland Wales and Ireland coming together. It only happens every four years and it only happens in Aotearoa in New Zealand every twelve years so it is a unique occasion and it's wonderful they've come to Whangarei and to Northland for the start of the tour."
Lions Fan, Matt Brawn says, "Its the welcome from all of New Zealand its been incredible you walk down the street and people are so friendly to you coming up and just saying can we get you anything can we help talking about the games talking about the potential of everything and yeah it's been and amazing welcome."
Hosting the Lions first up game is a major coup in Northland with the up to thirty thousand Lions fans expected to come to New Zealand during the duration of the Lions tour. By chance, Te Kāea came across members of the Provincial Barbarians team out for a walk in the build-up to their clash with the Lions.
NZ Barbarians player, Dwayne Sweeney (Ngati Mahanga) says, "Yeah it looks like its starting to clear so be able to chuck the ball around a bit hopefully but yeah everyone's pretty excited the towns buzzing the boys are buzzing and we're looking forward to it."
Sheryl Mai says, "The town is buzzing there are people everywhere and we know that they're just gonna be gathering and to wonder on down and have the best game of the tour, the first game."
Some lucky fans will receive these free golden tickets to tonight's game and irrespective of the final result in the Lions first up game here Whangarei is going to rock tonight.