6 Sep 2011

Tongans arrive to thousands of supporters

8:46 am on 6 September 2011

Tonga are unlikely to beat New Zealand on the rugby field but their arrival in Auckland on Monday trumped the All Blacks welcome as fans of the Pacific Islanders brought roads around the airport to a standstill.

Expatriates dressed in red, some with faces painted, flooded the airport at Auckland, which has the largest Polynesian population in the world, to welcome their rugby side who open the World Cup against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Friday night.

The thousands of people that swarmed on the airport appeared to outnumber the big crowd the All Blacks drew for their welcome ceremony at Aotea Square and Tongan captain Finau Maka says the welcome was one of the most humbling of his career.

Tonga's media conference was delayed by over an hour as the team struggled to get to their hotel in Auckland through the traffic the fans had created.