The British & Irish Lions have arrived in Rotorua where they were greeted by the powhiri – a ceremony which involved a band of fierce-looking, spear-wielding tattooed Maori warriors from the Te Arawa Iwi (tribe) laying down the weru (challenge).
The Lions stood to watch the local tribe performed a dramatic, traditional welcome, backed by song from the local community before Bill Beaumont and then captain Brian O’Driscoll stepped forward to accept the challenge.
O’Driscoll then addressed the local dignitaries and officials from the New Zealand Rugby Union.
He vowed the Lions had come to play hard and win, but stressed his desire to build friendship and strengthen ties during their seven weeks in New Zealand.
"We are professional rugby players and it goes without saying we are here to win. We want to play rugby, we want to win matches and most of all we want to win the Test series against New Zealand," said O’Driscoll.
"But this tour is not just about rugby. We intend to get out and meet people, see some of your country and learn of your history, geography and culture.
"The ties between New Zealand and Britain, New Zealand and Ireland are strong. Sport and, in particular, rugby have played a huge part in building those ties.
"I believe this tour is going to ensure the ties grow stronger and stronger. Thank you very much again for your welcome."
The Lions offered a song in return with Bath prop Matt Stevens, who was once invited to sing with the three Tenors only for a rugby tour to get in the way, leading the squad in a rendition of ‘Bread of Heaven’.
The official Lions series trophy was then unveiled before the formalities concluded with the hongi, a Maori welcome expressed by touching noses.
The tour gets underway on Saturday when the Lions face Bay of Plenty.