Air New Zealand ground crew at Auckland International Airport have given the All Blacks a spiritual send-off as they depart for the Rugby World Cup with a haka performed on the tarmac.
All Blacks Rieko Ioane, Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara as well as mental skills coach Gilbert ENoka represented the All Blacks on the tarmac as staff performed the Air NZ haka, Te Mangopare as well as the All Blacks' challenge Ka Mate.
Air New Zealand Cultural Development Manager Henare Johnson said the send-off was especially poignant given the timing.
"This week of course marks the beginning of Māori Language Week, but this year is also the 20th anniversary of the first time the New Zealand national anthem was sung in te reo on the global stage. This paved the way for New Zealand to embrace a bilingual anthem.
"As the airline that’s crazy about rugby we were thrilled to be able to give the All Blacks, as ambassadors of our language, our country, and our people, a very special farewell ahead of their next big challenge in Japan. Kia kaha te Kapa ō Pango."
The All Blacks are on an 11 hour flight to Japan to begin their preparations to defend the World Cup but could be welcomed by Typhoon Faxai which is currently affecting the eastern part of the country.
However All Blacks prop Angus Ta'avao told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning he has faith in Air New Zealand to get them to their destination safely.
"We've loosely been following it," Ta'avao said.
"But I've got full trust in Air New Zealand - they know what they're doing and by the time we get there it'll have blown over and we'll be pretty safe."