Anyone traveling to New Zealand must understand that rugby holds a nearly religious importance in the hearts and the minds of the Kiwi people. The first official match took place in the town of Nelson in 1870, and rugby has since become the national sport of New Zealand and the national team—the All Blacks—remains one of the most talented and feared squads in all of professional rugby. Given this history and deeply rooted passion, it should come as no surprise that seeing a rugby game in New Zealand ranks as a ‘must-do’ in terms of authentic cultural experiences.
While the spires of goal posts can be found everywhere from rural paddocks to downtown city parks, seeing a New Zealand rugby game in one of the nation’s premier stadiums will immerse you in a sporting atmosphere unlike any other found on the planet. If you happen to be lucky enough to be visiting during an All Blacks game, watch in awe as huge, athletic specimens perform the traditional Maori haka chant before engaging in an athletic battle with the visiting team or opponent. Not only is the action fast-paced and of electrifying quality, but the passion exhibited by the local fans is reason enough to immerse yourself in the festive, uproarious and boisterous scene.
In terms of where you can actually see a rugby game in New Zealand, two of the largest and most impressive venues are the Eden Park stadium in Auckland—the site of the final match in the 2011 Rugby World Cup where the All Blacks defeated France—and Westpac stadium in downtown Wellington. For a more rural and country atmosphere while watching a match, Upper Clutha rugby field outside the South Island town of Wanaka is frequently voted as the most scenic rugby field in the nation, the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Aspiring National Park towering over the action-packed grass pitch.
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