A weekend of rugby-fuelled festivities around the provinces will continue today with one of the most eagerly awaited clashes - Wales versus Samoa in Hamilton.

Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said the city was buzzing after Friday's test between the All Blacks and Japan and a sell-out concert at Claudelands last night with Shihad, Supergroove and Opshop.

"The whole stadium was singing the national anthem really loudly, even the Maori words," she said of the All Black test. "They were singing in tune."

She said she expected today's sell-out crowd of 30,000 would be split evenly between the Samoan and Welsh supporters.

The large Welsh community in Hamilton had been swelled by thousands of tourists, said Hardaker. This would be matched by a large influx of Samoan supporters from Auckland.

Throughout the excitement, however, there are sombre threads for those who have suffered from earthquakes in Christchurch and in a mining disaster in Wales.

Welsh players decided yesterday they would take the park today wearing black armbands after an accident in a coal mine cost the lives of four men.

Wales coach Warren Gatland - former All Black and Waikato rugby legend - personally sent back a message of condolence to the grieving families.

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said: "Our thoughts now are with the families of the men who died. The managers and players want to offer our most heartfelt condolences to their families for the loss they have suffered.

"We also send that message of sympathy to the mining community."

The Hamilton game is the first of today's matches in the provinces. France and Canada will play in Hawke's Bay, and England will meet Georgia in Dunedin.

In Napier, the French rugby team were mobbed on arrival at the city airport ahead of their clash with Canada at McLean Park this afternoon.

Team members were seen throwing wet toilet paper and water balloons from the balconies of the Scenic Circle Hotel on to Marine Parade below. And players from both teams attended the Hastings Blossom Parade.

In Dunedin, another capacity crowd of 30,000 was expected at the new stadium for an under-siege England's game against Georgia.

Rugby-starved Cantabrians turned out in their hundreds to welcome the All Blacks yesterday when they flew into the city for three days ahead of the match against France next Saturday. Twelve All Blacks played for the Crusaders in the Super 15 this year.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said many in the city felt the tournament was taking place in another country.

"I think many of us had a sense that there was a party going on and we were fighting for our lives and our futures."

Captain and Cantabrian Richie McCaw said it was good to be home. "It's nice to be back for a bit. It'll be a good couple of days."

Fellow Cantabrian Colin Slade agreed. "Christchurch has had a rough time and isn't getting any rugby action this year, so it's good."

Ali Williams said the fan turnout was "awesome". "Obviously they didn't let us play here. But the fact that we can still come here and train and have Christchurch be part of what is an amazing event is very special. The reality is you've got to draw on emotional things like this."

Many of the All Blacks were in the city on February 22 and felt the force of the devastating earthquake. The Crusaders had just finished training at Rugby Park when the magnitude 6.3 quake struck.

McCaw, Dan Carter, Owen Frank, Brad Thorne and Kieran Reid all have homes in the city.

Carter's Shirley home was damaged in the quake and he was forced to relocate to his parents' home in South Bridge.

McCaw has spearheaded a Rugby World Cup appeal to encourage visitors to New Zealand to donate to help rebuild rugby in Christchurch.

Sonny Bill Williams had also lent a hand boxing in a "Fight for Christchurch" event.

Carter, Andy Ellis, Reid and Corey Flynn spent last night with their families in the city.

Among the fans waiting to see the All Blacks was Mariana Pokai, 22, who wanted to get her jersey signed by Sonny Bill.

. "He's a babe, for sure. We need something down here because we haven't had any games. It's great."

George Fergusson, 19, Thomas Coughlan, 18, Mathew Dorgn, 19, were kitted out in full All Blacks gear. "It's great they're in Christchurch," said Fergusson. "We don't get to see any of the games so it's awesome because we don't feel like were missing out."

Also yesterday, Wellington surged to a sell-out match where defending champions South Africa overwhelmed Fiji 49-3. Similarly, Argentina dispatched Romania 43-8 in Invercargill.

Figures from Paymark show the Rugby World Cup host cities have enjoyed a spending explosion since the tournament kicked off.

Spending increased in hospitality, accommodation and car rental for the seven days to Thursday by 15 per cent on the same week last year. Predictably, the rise was mainly from overseas visitors. Spending on foreign cards was up by 27 per cent from last year.