Ahead of this weekend’s historical showdown against England at the Olympic Stadium, New Zealand’s Rugby League team were treated to a traditional open bus tour of London to experience the sights and sounds of the capital.
During the tour the squad enjoyed visiting the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, City Hall, The London Eye, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
In the first test match of a three test series, New Zealand were defeated by a rampant England side in Hull – resulting in the coming weekend’s game at the Olympic Stadium being a potential series decider. This is a historic first Rugby League game at the iconic stadium, and the Kiwis are determined to avoid a potentially morale-sapping defeat in London.
New Zealand player and co-captain Issac Luke was on the tour and spoke about the game ahead: “They (England) really gave it to us in the second half. In the first half we played a lot of good footy, but to no avail. We have been reviewing things closely and have some outcomes that we have concentrated on to fix things for our upcoming clash. It was a great game and they really gave it to us. We are now focused on the task ahead and will give it our very best shot.
“We are feeling confident that England won’t be able to put this test to bed on Saturday and we will be victorious, taking the series down to the last match in Wigan next weekend. Even though we are the top ranked team in the world, England have some strong players with the likes of Sean O’Loughlin and James Graham causing a serious threat, so we have to be wary of their strengths and be prepared for them. There is no doubt that playing at the Olympic Stadium will spur England on following the London 2012 Olympic Games so it will be a fantastic match and very entertaining for fans.”
Issac is keen to talk about his Rugby League journey: “I have come up through the grades with close friends and forged new and lasting friendships. We are a close unit here and it’s thanks to sport. I played League throughout school. My two brothers played League too, although my father played rugby. It’s a family thing and even my relations play too. I have female cousins who play rugby. We are a naturally sporting family and this culture is ingrained within. This tradition has been supportive in my career. Where I am from it was hard to get together so I had to be extra dedicated and travel all over the place to play.”
Issac is enthusiastic about passing on his experience to motivate others: “I followed my dreams. Don’t ever give up. There will be obstacles. Control the off-field stuff. Work hard, rest later. Work hard now and reap the rewards later in life. We really enjoyed our tour of London today in one of these traditional open top London buses. Seeing the famous sights such as Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and Tower Bridge has got us all excited to play in London this weekend.”
Issac’s fellow skipper Adam Blair added: “I’ve been here a few times. I always enjoy London. Normally I come over with a bunch of Kiwi boys and its always special times.”
Blair spoke about his career path with the Kiwis: “You grow up with every sport, and you choose one. For me it was a great opportunity to move away from home and experience the world by travelling and also by living in another country. I took up a game that I was unfamiliar with but very much enjoyed. It’s been hard work all the way and that is the single most important feature of a successful career. Work hard, push yourself and never give up. The only person who knows truly is you, and you need to give it your best. If after that you don’t make it, then a least you can look in the mirror and say you gave it you’re very best.”
Blair is focused on the second game against England: “I guess we have an exciting game ahead. It’s exciting for everyone involved. The English boys have the upper hand, but we have a job to do and we simply have to win the game or the series is over for us. It’s simple. We have to win this game and that’s what we intend to do. So we will enjoy this historic occasion come Saturday and hopefully grind out a memorable win to lighten up this special series.”
Stephen Kearney’s side is currently ranked the best side in the world. The New Zealand head coach said: “Playing at the Olympic Stadium this weekend against England will be a wonderful opportunity. We had a tough time up in Hull last Sunday and are determined to keep the series alive by beating England on Saturday.
“It’s been a great year for New Zealand rugby. Following the success of our rugby union friends in the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup, we hope to continue our country’s success in London against England and we are so pleased to be able to be a part of this wonderful stadium’s history, being part of the first ever Rugby League match to be played there.”
Last week England came from behind to beat New Zealand impressively 26-12 in the opening Test of their three-match series. New Zealand is the world’s top-ranked side and tries from Tohu Harris and Sam Moa put the Kiwis 10-0 ahead before Josh Hodgson and Brett Ferres pegged things back to 12-12. The home team upped the ante after the break. A penalty from Gareth Widdop and a converted try from Ferres made it 20-12 before captain Sean O’Loughlin barged over late on for an impressive comeback win.
On Saturday, 7th November (2.30pm) England faces New Zealand in the Olympic Stadium in the second of a three match test series which started at the KC Stadium (Hull) on Sunday, 1st November and concludes at the DW Stadium (Wigan) on Saturday, 14th November.
Tickets to England v New Zealand at the Olympic Stadium on 7th November 2015 cost from £22 for adults and £10 for concessions per game and are available at
www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or via the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844-856 1113.