The Rugby World Cup comes to Wanganui today. Unfortunately, the River City was never going to get allocated a RWC match, but it's got the next best thing.
Wanganui is hosting the USA Eagles for the next week. The team flew in to Auckland yesterday, then on to Wanganui which will be their base for the last week of their RWC preparations.
The public of Wangnaui will welcome the USA team this afternoon in traditional fashion. There will be a powhiri at historic Putiki Marae on the banks of the Whanganui River. Once the rugby-playing manuhiri have been welcomed according to Tupoho custom, they will then be transported along the mighty Whanganui by waka.
There was a degree of controversy a couple of weeks ago when the Americans politely declined the waka invitation. It later emerged that there had been crossed wires in the comunications side of things, and once the significance of the waka journey to local iwi was explained to the Eagles' management, they had a change of heart.
The weather forecast for the city is great for today, and the sight of the waka on the river accompanied by a flotilla of other craft will be quite a spectacle. The waka will travel to the Union Boat Club's jetty, alongside the wharf where the paddlesteamer Waimaries berths, and the public is invited to greet the USA players and support staff there.
This promises to be a great afternoon. We remember as a child welcoming the 1965 Springboks and the 1966 Lions outside the Grand Hotel in Palmerston North. Welcomes such as those, with thousands turning out are a thing of the past. So we're hoping that a good crowd of locals turns out at around 3pm to welcome the USA Eagles to our wonderful city. It may be as close to RWC2011 as many from Wanganui get, so let's take advantage of it.