Getting up close and personal with a real kiwi at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre in the Wairarapa yesterday were French rugby referee Romain Poite and former Lions player John Jeffrey.

The pair were treated to a guided behind the scenes tour of the Wairarapa tourism attraction by former IRB rugby referee and chairman of the board for Pukaha Mount Bruce, Bob Francis.

Todd Jenkins, Bob Francis, Romain Poite, Helen Tickner, John Jeffrey and Laura Hutchinson at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.
Todd Jenkins, Bob Francis, Romain Poite, Helen Tickner, John Jeffrey and Laura Hutchinson at Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.

They were able to meet and hold a North Island brown kiwi under the guidance of Pukaha's conservation manager, Todd Jenkins, view Manukura, the only white kiwi visitors can see in captivity in New Zealand and see other native birds including kaka, tui and kokako.

The pair were in the Wairarapa ahead of last night's dinner - Rugby Yarns with The Lion, The All Black and The Ref - at the Copthorne Hotel & Resort Solway Park in Masterton - where they were guest speakers along with former All Blacks player, coach and selector Sir Brian Lochore.

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French rugby referee Romain Poite meets a kokako in the Wairarapa.
French rugby referee Romain Poite meets a kokako in the Wairarapa.

The dinner, a charity event, will see all monies raised split evenly between the Wairarapa Multi Sports Stadium Trust and Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.