Rugby hosts: Hamilton

Wales' coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Getty Images
Wales' coach Warren Gatland. Photo / Getty Images

Hamilton is still the home town of Wales' coach Warren Gatland and it will be his team's base, too, for two matches that are likely to be crucial in their pool.

Wales will be playing Fiji and Samoa at Waikato Stadium, and may need all the local support it can muster.

Both Pacific teams will have a big following and Wales will probably have to beat both to join the pool's likely winner, South Africa.

Hamilton rolled out a red carpet for the Welsh when they were in the city for last year's All Black test.

This time Fraser Tech and other clubs such as Hamilton Old Boys and Hamilton Marist are lining up to welcome Wales' travelling supporters for the World Cup, and the RSA has offered its facilities.

Two private schools, St Paul's Collegiate and St Peter's School, will be training venues for the teams.

The city's Hood St bar precinct is talking about closing the street and laying down artificial grass with goalposts to become Hamilton's "party central" for the tournament.

Hamilton can expect big numbers at all its matches. The All Blacks play their second game at Waikato Stadium, against Japan, before Wales and the Pacific teams arrive.

Hamilton has had one of the highest turnouts for volunteer registration in the country. The last weekend of November, 254 came through the doors of the city's reception lounge of potential volunteers. One man had driven from Whitianga to volunteer.

* Tomorrow: Blenheim

- NZ Herald

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