The Maori All Blacks have been welcomed to the city in true Rotorua fashion - with a rousing pohiri.
The team were welcomed on to Te Papaiouru Marae at Ohinemutu today by Ngati Whakaue members and several local schools, including Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu, Rotorua Intermediate, Rotorua Girls' High School and Rotorua Boys' High School.
At least 100 students took part in the haka.
Inside the Tamatekapua wharenui the official welcome was conducted in te reo Maori with speakers including Rotorua Lakes Council kaitiaki Maori director Monty Morrison and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell.
Mr Morrison said the most important part of his speech was welcoming the team on behalf of Ngati Whaukaue and Te Arawa.
" They are the best that Maoridom can provide and it was an honour to be able to welcome them."
He said he spoke to the several of the team members after the pohiri who said they were deeply touched by the welcome.
"They were honoured by the presence of all of us, from the younger ones to the older ones. It was an all-inclusive welcome."
Mr Morrison said the speech by Mr Flavell was powerful, particularly when he spoke about coming together as a singular team.
"Whether you are from the Blues or the Chiefs, Te Ururoa said 'Tu Maori mai' which translates to standing proudly as a Maori ... I think the Maori All Blacks will absolutely win [on Saturday], especially after a welcome like that."
There would be no pohiri for the Lions team when they arrived in Rotorua as they had already been welcomed to Aotearoa, Mr Morrison said.
Dana Kinita, marketing and communications manager at Rotorua Boys' High School, said
12 students took part in the pohiri.
"For our school, it was more than just welcoming the Maori All Blacks to Rotorua. It was a welcome back to our two old boys, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Liam Messam whose rugby careers epitomises our school's motto 'Ad Astra Per Aspera, Whaia Te Iti Kahurangi - To the stars through hard work'. As a school, we are proud of their achievements and wish them all the best this Saturday."
The pohiri took place before a Maori All Blacks public training session this afternoon at Puketawhero Park.
The Maori All Blacks take on the British & Irish Lions at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday night.