Rugby was firmly on the menu at the state reception for Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, at Government House in Wellington on Wednesday evening.
About 100 dignitaries attended the stand-up gathering in the ballroom, hosted by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae, and including Prime Minister John Key and leader of the opposition, Andrew Little, plus their partners.
Unfortunately, the Duchess of Cornwall pulled out from attending the reception, apparently on the governor-general’s advice, to recover from a troublesome cough and jet lag.
After a warm welcome by Sir Jerry, banter about the rugby quickly surfaced.
He mentioned Prince Harry’s last visit to New Zealand in May, the most recent royal before his father and step-mother arrived on Wednesday afternoon.
It was Harry who presented the cup to the All Blacks at Twickenham three days ago.
“A very good rugby game,” he added.
Sir Jerry said he regretted that Prince Charles would not remain in New Zealand for his birthday on November 14, acknowledging the royal couple had to head to Australia by then, where he would celebrate his birthday with “our Australian cousins”.
“I could say something more about lifting their spirits,” Sir Jerry said, prompting laughter.
In response, the prince said he was “so relieved” that New Zealand won the rugby, admitting he was “slightly anxious” of what he would find on his visit to our shores if the All Blacks had failed to keep the cup.
“By the time we get to Australia, hopefully they will have got over it,” he said, getting a roar of laughter from the crowd.
“Secretly I did think they [the All Blacks] were going to win all the time. How they do it, I don’t know. It’s a great demonstration of sporting prowess,” he added.
The royal couple arrived only hours after the victorious All Blacks landed in Auckland on Wednesday morning in time for the first of three welcome home parades.
The Duke and Duchess will spend a week visiting various sites around New Zealand before heading to Australia for a six-day visit.