Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Test city abuzz for world record match

Charlie Faumuina takes part in a game at Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, yesterday during a promotional visit with other All Blacks. Photo / Alan Gibson
Charlie Faumuina takes part in a game at Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, yesterday during a promotional visit with other All Blacks. Photo / Alan Gibson

Tonight's sell-out test between the All Blacks and England is predicted to draw one of the biggest event crowds Hamilton has ever experienced, bar owners say.

With Waikato Stadium a sell-out and accommodation scarce, the hospitality industry has gone into overdrive to cater for the influx of rugby fans.

If the All Blacks win tonight, they will equal a world-record 17 straight test wins.

John Lawrenson, director of the Lawrenson Group, which runs 13 bars and restaurants in the city including The Bank, The Helm, and Keystone, said his staff were aiming to break record takings for one night and believed it would happen.

"A few of us are picking the biggest turnover night in our history. We've got some venues that have been booked out for a month. People are actually ringing us now asking if they can book standing room."

Staff had been busy gearing up for the night including bringing in former staff and extra TVs, hiring extra chefs, ovens, deep fryers, security and doubling food and alcohol orders.

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Yesterday it was the "calm before the storm" as fans trickled into town.

Phoenix Group director Jason Macklow, who owns four bars and restaurants and a brewery in the city, picked diehard English fans to have secured a seat at a pub from mid-afternoon.

"We're expecting a massive time of it. It'll be huge. We're expecting to get hit from 2pm."

He said for such a big occasion extra staff had been hired and everyone would start three hours earlier than normal.

Waikato Motel Association vice-president Narinder Sagoo said many who had left it to the last minute were struggling to find beds in the city.

He said unlike recent All Black tests in Hamilton tonight's game would not be a "walkover".

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Hamilton i-SITE manager Michelle Williams said the city was sitting at 98 per cent capacity. She said there had been a noticeable increase in English customers this week, while black New Zealand rain ponchos had been selling like hot cakes.

Yesterday All Blacks Conrad Smith, Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock were at Melville Intermediate School to announce a partnership between the NZRU and Unicef to help improve the lives of children around the world.

- NZ Herald

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