In Focus: Hamilton

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

In Focus: Hamilton

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.

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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.

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Week six of our series takes us to the North Island and Hamilton.


In the most populous city of the Waikato region, you certainly won’t be short of company around 161,200 people in Hamilton.

New Zealand’s fourth-largest city in terms of population with a bustling retail hub in Hamilton Central means there are plenty of options for where to spend any leftover dollar.

With a landscape formed by the last eruption of the Lake Taupo volcano complex 1800 years ago, there is certainly a wealth of majestic scenery to feast the eyes upon on what is a relatively flat landscape.

That’s none more so than the Waikato River, the longest-running river in New Zealand, running for 425km through the North Island. Pick the perfect spot there and the views can be breathtaking.

That’s where the British & Irish Lions may be visiting in the vicinity of June 20, their final warm-up game before taking on New Zealand after making the 100km trip from Rotorua.

What is there to see and do?

With the Waikato region’s most popular attraction very much on your doorstep, you won’t be going far wrong with a trip to Hamilton Gardens.

Boasting 21 gardens representing the art, beliefs, lifestyles and traditions of different civilisations or historical garden styles, not only is there beautiful scenery to take in, but also an exploration into the history of the country.

Should you rather have your views from a more aerial persuasion, then it’s certainly worth taking to the skies for a hot air balloon ride over the lakes.

While it may be a little too late to take part in the Balloons over Waikato festival this spring, there are few places more spectacular than New Zealand to see from high in the skies.


Should the weather not quite be to your liking, then there is plenty to do indoors, with the Waikato Museum likely to be high on your hitlist – celebrating 30 years since its opening this very year.

Waikato Museum offers a range of exhibitions as well as a full complement of education programmes, with a view to enhance the heritage and culture of the region.

That’s something you’ll undoubtedly get with the 200-year-old waka taua (war canoe), part of 13 galleries featuring more than 25 new exhibitions and 100 public events annually.


With The British & Irish Lions heading to Hamilton for the last game before the first Test against the All Blacks , their game against the Chiefs could hardly take on more significance on June 20.

Part of Super Rugby since their inception in 1996, the Chiefs are twice winners of the overall crown in 2012 and 2013, while the last three seasons have also seen them reach the play-offs.

Chiefs have all started the current edition like an express train too, winning their first four games of the competition

They also boast plenty of international pedigree too, with New Zealand’s 60-cap star Brodie Retallick – an international since just 21 years of age – part of their strongest side.

Aaron Cruden and Japan’s Michael Leitch also form the Chiefs’ setup, led from the front by All Blacks flanker Sam Cane who dons the armband.

The Lions will know the importance of keeping up momentum in their Tour with victory prior to the first Test match in Eden Park.

Lions Record

With the Chiefs only a force across the past two decades, this will be the first meeting between them and the British & Irish Lions.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a first visit to the Waikato Stadium, first opened in 1925, with the Lions facing the New Zealand Maori there in 2005.


Billed as the fourth Test of the summer, the Lions were given a hard-fought battle, missing out 19-13.

A 25,8000 seater stadium, the ground hosted three pool matches of the 2011 Rugby World Cup and was also a host city for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

The Waikato Stadium is the most recent of its names though, formerly Rugby Park when the Lions also came to visit in 1993 and ten years previously.

In the last warm-up game prior to the fourth Test in 1983, the Lions stole the march with an impressive 40-13 victory against the home Waikato side, the fourth time they had scored 40 points or more on the Tour.

Famous sons

When Warren Gatland comes to town, he’ll certainly be returning to a place of familiarity in Hamilton.

The British & Irish Lions Head Coach was born there before attending Hamilton Boys’ High School, the very start of what was, and is, a very esteemed journey through rugby.


He played 17 non-international matches for New Zealand amidst his time at Waikato University, before going on to become the record-holder of the most games for Waikato near the end of the 1994 season.

He finished with 140 games in total and announced his retirement before the start of the 1995 season.

Hamilton is also the home of Stephen Donald – a man who wrote himself into New Zealand rugby folklore in 2011.

Leading 5-0 in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, Donald kicked a penalty with 35 minutes remaining against the French – a kick that proved the decisive moment as the All Blacks prevailed 8-7 to lift the title, the proudest moment of his 23 caps for his country.

Hamilton has also been home to a plethora of sportsmen, with cricket legend Daniel Vettori also calling Hamilton home, playing 112 Test matches in an esteemed career.

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