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New Zealand In Focus: Whangarei

New Zealand In Focus: Whangarei

The British & Irish Lions will travel the length and breadth of New Zealand on the 2017 Tour.

The British & Irish Lions will travel the length and breadth of New Zealand on the 2017 Tour.

In only six weeks, the tourists will play 10 games, in seven different cities against eight different opponents. 

Click here to see our Tour packages to New Zealand that include Whangarei

The Land of the Long White Cloud has a vast array of scenery and attractions for fans to take in and with the Tour now only a matter of months away, it pays to be prepared.

But fear not, help is at hand and we have put together a handy guide to each of the seven cities that will play host to the Lions on Tour.

Week one of our new series kicks off with Whangarei – the largest city in the Northland region.
 
Overview
 
While Warren Gatland’s 2017 Lions will first touch down on Kiwi soil in Auckland – their first match on Tour takes them to Whangarei.

Just a 35-minute flight from the nation’s capital, the city sits in the Northland region, an area rich in history and culture.

This is after all the birthplace of New Zealand – the site where Maori and Europeans came together to sign the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
 
What is there to see and do?
 
There are few more scenic places in New Zealand to kick things off than Whangarei.

While there are plenty of sites to take in throughout the surrounding area, there are two natural attractions closer to hand.

Mount Parihaka is the highest point in the city, and was also formerly the site of the largest Maori Pa (fortified village) in New Zealand.

A short drive to the north of the city and you are at the picturesque Whangarei Falls – a 26m high waterfall of rare natural beauty. 

Head further afield and the beautiful beaches and jaw-dropping coastlines of the Northland region are more than enough to keep you happy.

The Bay of Islands is arguably the most popular destination and here you can swim with dolphins, surf the waves or take a stroll through the ancient Waipoua Forest to encounter one of New Zealand’s most accessible natural treasures, Tane Mahuta – the giant kauri tree that is said to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.

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The Lions are also certain to take in the Museum of Waitangi that sits on the very site recognised as the birthplace of the nation and you should too.
 
Opponents
 
The first clash of the Tour will take place on Saturday June 3 and pits the Lions against a Provincial Union XV.

Made up of players from the Mitre 10 Cup – the breeding ground for the country’s five Super Rugby franchises – the Provincial XV will be desperate to prove their worth against rugby’s most famous touring side.

Meanwhile the Lions will know the importance of kicking off their Tour off with a victory to provide some early momentum.
 
Stadium

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Since its opening in June 2010, Toll Stadium has hosted a range of local, national and international sporting events, including two Rugby World Cup matches in 2011.

The 30,000-seater is the home of the Northland Taniwha and has undergone a massive refurbishment including a redeveloped main grandstand known as the Northlands Event Centre.
 
Lions record
 
Northland has proved a very happy hunting ground for the Lions over the years.

Indeed, should the 2017 tourists open up with a victory it would be their eighth win from eight outings in the region.

The first success came in 1950 when they downed North Auckland 8-6 and the 1971 Lions legends also edged an 11-5 victory.  

But the Lions have not set foot in this stadium since 1993 when they took down North Auckland 30-17 – a team that included All Blacks lock Ian Jones – in the opening fixture.

But the upcoming game is set to be the biggest clash yet – and district councillor Phil Halse, who was in the North Auckland side that faced the tourists in 1977, captured the emotion best when Whangarei was announced as a host city once more:

"This is a historic occasion for the district – we've hosted the Lions here seven times, beginning in 1950 and missing only the 2005 series," Halse told the New Zealand Herald.
 
Famous sons
 
Northland has produced over 30 All Blacks but perhaps none are more famous than Sid Going.

The man they call ‘Super Sid’ was one of the greatest scrum-halves of his or indeed any era, winning 29 caps for his country between 1967 and 1977.

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A North Auckland native, the Going family dynasty has reached near mythical status in the region.

Sid played for North Auckland alongside his brothers Ken and Brian while of his five children, son Jared played for New Zealand 7s while Milton played Super Rugby for the Crusaders.

Going played against the Lions in both the 1971 and 1977 series, and his battles behind the scrum with the legend that is Gareth Edwards remain some of the greatest the sport has ever seen.

Another All Black hero to hail from these parts is Whangarei native Ian Jones, the lock who played 79 times for the All Blacks between 1990 and 1999.

Jones showed remarkable longevity in a career that took in three Rugby World Cups and a Lions Tour in 1993.

Their most recent All Black is Rene Ranger who made his bow in 2010 and could take on the Lions later on in the Tour with his Super Rugby side the Blues in Auckland.
 

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