19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
The fine sunny weather of the past few days gave way last night to more seasonal fare as rain lashed the team bus on it's way up to the Alpine Energy Stadium for the official welcome to Timaru.
The players gathered outside in the shelter of the main stand before being summoned into the clubhouse by Ani Haua, wife of Smiley Haua, Maori Representative on the Council of Clubs and President of South Cantebury Maori Rugby.
Once inside, the Irish management were seated in a Pai Pai or formal sitting and were addressed by Haua who spoke in Maori, with wife Ani translating.
Smiley, the Kaumatua (Elder) of the South Cantebury Maori, gave the traditional Maori welcome "Tenakoutu, Tenakoutu, Tenakatoa, (Welcome, Welcome, Welcome All) and then invited Brian O'Brien to speak on behalf of the Irish.
The haka was performed by a group of young Maori who then welcomed the Irish in the usual way - by song.
Tradition demands that the visitors reply likewise and it was left to Irish captain Keith Wood to give a rendition of "It's A Long Way From Clare To Here ", his teammates proving to be an excellent backing chorus.
By all accounts the Maori, who have a great sense of place, were totally charmed by the appropriateness of the song, and were won over by their visitors.
After a brief stay in the club, the Irish returned to their hotel in good time to watch their soccer couterparts in action in Japan.
This morning's training session was as rigorous as any to date with Saturday's starting line up going at full tilt against an opposition who carried tackle bags as a form of protection.
The early afternoon was spent by various groups visiting schools and after a 2pm lunch the players were free to do as they pleased, a rare afternoon off which was greatly appreciated.