- Title: NEW ZEALAND: RUGBY UNION: Auckland prepares for Rugby World Cup
- Date: 9th September 2011
- Summary: PEOPLE WALKING
- Embargoed: 24th September 2011 13:00
- Location: New Zealand, New Zealand
- Country: New Zealand
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA8MCJ0H4ZRYO5CLVAG0M91R1ES
- Story Text: Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, on Thursday (September 8) completed its preparations for the opening night Friday of the Rugby World Cup as fans from all countries began to gather and anticipation grew throughout the country.
The city's major fan zone is located on the waterfront and workers were busy putting the finishing touches to 'The Cloud' as it has become known due to its white, wavy nature.
The area is expected to host around 60,000 people on Friday (September 9) when the tournament officially begins with hosts New Zealand playing Tonga at Eden Park.
Entertainment in the area is set to begin at around four o'clock in the afternoon, some four and a half hours before kick off, with concerts and a traditional Maori haka (war challenge) among the features before a huge and expensive fireworks display lights up the night sky.
Auckland has undergone a major facelift for the World Cup, with parts of the waterfront having been significantly upgraded in time for the tournament.
One All Blacks fans, Tim Reddington, told Reuters he had never seen the city looking as good as it was now.
"My dad is over there and he's just come up from Christchurch and I told him when we were driving from the airport 'dad, there's going to be parts of Auckland I'm going to take you to which you won't recognise'. And this is one of them because a few months ago, this was a dump really," said Reddington.
Fans from all over the world have also begun arriving and are lapping up the pre-tournament excitement that is sweeping across New Zealand.
While many are just happy to be in the country for the World Cup, it does not take long for talk of who will lift the trophy at the end to get patriotic.
One South African fan told Reuters New Zealanders were the perfect hosts for the World, Cup but that did not guarantee anything when it came to what happens on the field of play.
"Beautiful country, well suited for rugby. Everybody loves rugby. But it is the Springboks who will take home the Cup again. Ha ha!"
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