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Declan Kidney, Brian O'Driscoll and the rest of the Irish travelling party got a great reception from the fans at New Plymouth Airport.

Thursday was travel day for the squad as they moved camp from Queenstown to New Plymouth, the venue for Sunday's opening Pool C clash with the USA.

They then paid a visit to the Owae Marae in Waitara for the Powhiri (traditional Maori welcome). Beside the large carved meeting houses, the local Maori iwi (tribe) gave a display of traditional dancing and singing.

The crowd assembled included many local school children, who were thrilled to see some of the players they have watched on TV up close.

Led by the tuneful Denis Leamy, the Ireland players treated them to a version of Christy Moore's 'Ride On' and then mixed with the children, the Maori elders and local residents present.

A popular figure for the kids, Ireland captain O'Driscoll was delighted to sign autographs and pose for photgraphs. He was heartened by the warmth of the welcomes in New Plymouth and Waitara and urged the locals to 'please say hello if you see us in a coffee shop'.

"We have been waiting a long time for this World Cup to start. The first match can't come quickly enough," he said.

New Plymouth District Mayor Harry Duynhoven commented: "We wish you a great success until the final and we hope that Ireland and the All Blacks will have a wonderful final."

Summing up the day, Ireland team manager Paul McNaughton said: "We had a nice Maori welcome as we got off the plane and onto the bus. We've had a number of these before and we had one this morning, which was the big one of the trip.

"We had one in Queenstown but that was combined with a civic reception and caps ceremont, so this was our main Maori welcome.

"The players sang 'Ride On'. They had their singing voices on and they sang it well."

Meanwhile, Rugby World Cup Limited has announced that the USA and Ireland will commemorate the members of the rugby community who died in 9/11 attacks at their opening Pool C match in New Plymouth on Sunday.

Ten years to the day from the events of September 11, 2001, both teams will observe a minute's silence immediately prior to the game and will wear black armbands in remembrance of those who lost their lives.

Follow the Ireland team in New Zealand on www.twitter.com/irfurugby.

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20 June 2018
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