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FEATURE – England visit rural Maori marae outside Hamilton

04 July 2014

  • Care and Sinckler talk through edifying marae visit
  • See Barritt, Twelvetrees, Trinder and Johnson perform the haka 

Engaging with the local community has become a real feature of England touring parties under Stuart Lancaster, with perhaps the most edifying to date taking place at a rural Maori marae on the outskirts of Hamilton.

On the day of England’s third Test against New Zealand, 17 members of the squad visited the traditional – and still frequented on a daily basis – meeting place to be treated to a cultural experience of aggressive challenges, greeting songs and audience-participation hakas.

The visit was notable for the awe, respect and delight from the attending players, epitomised by the brilliant song response they mustered with five minutes preparation on the team bus – a surprisingly tuneful version of Bill Withers’ Lean on me.

Ben Foden at a Maori marae outside Hamilton

Scrum half Danny Care said: “We came down to this  marae and we’ve been welcomed amazingly, there’s been some dancing, some hakas and we even sung our own song – it’s been an incredible day.

“It was a bit scary, I think a few of us were twitching when the spears were about to be thrown. But it’s awesome to see their culture and the way they do things over here. It’s humbling to see how close they are as families and brilliant that they are willing to share it with us.”

After being treated to some universally approved traditional Maori food, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees, Henry Trinder and Tom Johnson were selected to learn and perform the All Blacks version of the haka.

Their performance was met with delight by the crowd and Kyle Sinckler – producer of the “Sinck special” ending to the song – was keen to point out the inclusive tone to the trip.

“It’s been a really good day, they’ve been really welcoming. It’s good to get out and embrace the culture, embrace the places you visit and get to see the guys out here and see what makes them tick.”

The trip was on the back of a variety of community events in New Zealand including coaching at Ponsonby Rugby Club in Auckland; raising money for New Zealand’s rugby charity Cure Kidz; and watching an important schools match and visiting a children’s hospital in Dunedin