3 Sep 2011

Rousing welcome for Italian and Welsh teams

10:46 am on 3 September 2011

Hundreds of fans have turned out to welcome Italy and Wales ahead of the Rugby World Cup tournament.

About 400 flag-waving people cheered the Italians as they landed at Nelson airport, where Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio told the visitors that without Italy's support, the city would not be hosting a World Cup team.

"It's a little-known fact that three to four years ago, your support of our bid for Rugby World Cup was instrumental in us hosting matches here in Nelson," Mr Miccio said.

Italy's first game is against Australia at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium on 11 September.

Meanwhile, a dedicated band of red, white and green supporters turned out at Wellington airport to welcome the Welsh squad.

The team - ranked sixth in the world - were greeted by cheers and a rendition of their national anthem, along with a waiata from a Maori kapa haka group.

One supporter dressed in a Welsh dragon costume was confident his side will walk away with the Webb Ellis Cup.

Others were less sure, but still greeted their team with loud cheers and handed out daffodils to players as they walked past.

Wales is in for a tough start, kicking off their campaign against South Africa in Wellington 11th September.

The South African team will arrive in Wellington about midnight on Friday.

The tournament runs from 9 September to 23 October.