Rugby fans have packed bars in Rotorua as the countdown to tonight's Maori All Blacks/British & Irish Lions clash intensifieds.

As the weather started to pack in by mid-afternoon thirsty fans took their places in the city's pubs.

Punters were already being turned away at 3pm, and music and singing could be heard from campsites overrun by British supporters in their vans.

A group of Lions fans making their way down Arawa Street were in high spirits ahead of kick off, with two members of a group of five wearing onesies over their Lions jerseys.


"We're loving New Zealand. It doesn't really matter what happens tonight, we've had such a good time so far.

"Obviously we're keen for a win but the real stuff doesn't start until next week anyway."

Predictions for the game were quietly confident but conservative.

"I reckon the Lions... by about five points, but it's going to be really tight," one British fan said.

The game is sold out while bars and fan zones around Rotorua will be at full capacity.

The whole day was a festival of rugby at Rotorua International Stadium, with the big game between the visitors and the Maori All Blacks preceded by two international women's tests, between Australia and Canada and the Black Ferns and England.

Earlier in the day, the world's biggest haka gave Lions fans a taste of Kiwi culture ahead of their side's clash with the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua.

About 7800 people were out in force at the Village Green, giving it their all to beat the official record which sat at 4100.


Men, women and children chanted and threw their hands in the air with great enthusiasm, creating an almighty roar.

The record is yet to be officially verified but the organisers, the International Rugby Club, are confident their effort toppled the existing mark.

The green was full of both All Black and Lions fans from early this morning. Thousands squeezed into the green near Lake Rotorua to either take part or observe the haka attempt.

Friday's sunshine was replaced by gloomy grey skies and the occassional sprinkling of rain, meaning more red jackets and beanies were on show than short-sleeved replica jerseys.

Shops had red and black balloons decorating their store fronts, while locals in cars made sure it was clear which team they supported, yelling out "Go the Maori All Blacks" at Lions fans who were clad in red or dressed up for the occassion.

Joey Speed, from England, told the Herald it was "incredible" to take part in the haka.

"It was incredible to get a taste of the Maori experience. Learning the words was a bit difficult but there were lots of locals who were friendly to us and helped us out."

The haka was led by Wetini Mitai-Ngatai and Eraia Keil, with help from students from Rotorua Boys' High School and Rotorua Girls' High School.

The words to the famous Ngati Toa Rangatira haka, Ka Mate, were shown on the large screen.

The event was free to take part in, but a gold coin was asked for, with all money raised going towards the Starship Foundation who are the official charity partner of the Lions Series.