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Dunedin extends Wales an old-fashioned welcome

NEW ZEALAND v WALES
Venue: Carisbrook, Dunedin Date: Saturday, 19 June Kick-off: 0835 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Wales MW & online, score updates online, live on Sky Sports 1


Wales fly-half Stephen Jones
Wales fly-half Stephen Jones trains at Carisbrook Stadium un Dunedin

By Richard Williams
BBC Wales Sport in New Zealand

There's a feeling you get when you walk down Princes Street in Dunedin.

It's a feeling you used to get in Cardiff in the 1970s when a touring team was in town.

It's a feeling you had before the commercialisation of rugby and the arrival of pay packets for players.

It's the feeling of a town welcoming a touring team. For Dunedin has put down the red carpet for Wales and the Welsh fans.

It's the thing you haven't seen since the end of long tours by overseas rugby teams, when they arrived in the autumn and left in the New Year.

Dunedin is greeting Wales like Llanelli, Swansea and Newport used to welcome the All Blacks and the Springboks and the Wallabies. As honoured guests.

The shop windows are hung with buntin and balloons. Black and white for New Zealand; red, white and green for Wales. Even the Scottish shop is draped with red dragons.

When the Wales team arrived on Thursday evening they were greeted by a lone piper, ex-pat fans and a male voice choir singing Gwahoddiad. They were impressed, even though Gwahoddiad is a hymn often sung at a funeral!

It's redolent of a time when the tourists were cheered in the streets and when the crowd sang "Now is the Hour" at the sounding of the final whistle in the final match of the tour.

It's fitting then that now is the hour when Dunedin must say goodbye to Carisbrook, a ground more than 12,000 miles away from the Millennium Stadium - and of a different millennium.

It's a ground open to the elements, big enough to double as a cricket venue and sitting low in a suburb of this southern city. A familiar and slightly embarrassing presence - like a dowager aunt at a family Christening.

And when the floodlights go out after the final test match there on Saturday, and eyes turn to the state-of-the-art Forsyth Barr Stadium taking shape on the other side of the city, let's hope everything old doesn't disappear under its crystal roof and reinforced concrete.

Some say Dunedin is an old-fashioned city. But old-fashioned can be good. An open fire is old-fashioned; so is sitting down to Sunday lunch with your extended family.

In many ways, most of them old-fashioned and charming, Dunedin is my kind of town.



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