Rugby’s famous William Webb Ellis statue was the chosen venue in town for the opening ceremony of the 2011 Rugby World Cup

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NOT all eyes were on New Zealand for the opening of the Rugby World Cup this morning (Friday) - Rugby itself came alive to the sights and sounds of the traditional Maori Haka in a flag-raising ceremony at the Webb Ellis statue.

Fresh from watching their team’s victory over Tonga on TV, the troupe performed two versions of the Haka before a crowd of spectators and schoolchildren raised the flags of the 16 competing nations to loud applause. The Maoris said they were honoured to be representing New Zealand in the birthplace of the game on such a historic day.

The public ceremony was preceded by a breakfast at the Merchant’s Inn, where a group including Rugby Borough Council leader Craig Humphries, Mayor Gwen Hotten and new Lions owner Mike Aland watched New Zealand’s comfortable 41-10 win over Tonga on a big screen after a traditional fry-up.