All Blacks Tours are gearing up to send large numbers to Rugby World Cup 2023 and they have enlisted a former All Black in the know as one of their tour guides.
Andy Ellis knows what it takes to be on a winning team.
The former All Blacks halfback won six NPC Premierships with Canterbury, three Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, and tasted success with the Kobelco Steelers in Japan and Rugby New York.
His crowning glory was kicking the ball out to end the 2011 Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park. The All Blacks beat France 8-7.
In October, Ellis will be leading a group (about a busload full) of passionate rugby fans through France at the World Cup as part of All Blacks Tours, a dedicated travel company exclusively appointed by New Zealand Rugby to manage official All Blacks supporters’ travel, and owned by Sports Travel & Hospitality.
Fans are in for a treat with the former Canterbury captain eager to emulate some of the winning environments he was a part of and share his unique travel experiences.
“Winning the World Cup didn’t change me as a person or anything I stand for, which is honesty, loyalty and hard work. It did make me very content at the end of my career, though. I’m proud to have done something special for myself, my family, and my country,” Ellis says.
“I toured France twice as a player, on the 2006 end-of-year tour and again at the World Cup in 2007. The French love Kiwis and really open up to us. Their culture, love of rugby hospitality and, of course, wine, is second to none.”
Ellis will lead a group that attends matches from the quarter-finals onwards. Excursions on off days include a walking tour of Nice, and an exploration of Monaco, known for opulent bars, casinos and a man-made beach.
All Blacks Tours under Ellis won’t be a generic, sanitised tour. He’s eager to build winning chemistry with a group of diverse Kiwis.
“In the All Blacks, we had guitar players on the bus, jokers, a buddy system for those alike – lots of things to grow confidence, have fun and build the lasting friendships rugby provides.
“We’ll create an environment where people have a good time, are open to new things and have a good laugh.
“I’m confident the All Blacks will win. They’re not the favourites but they’ve got some real X-factor, a heap of motivation, and some changes they made last season have ironed out some weaknesses.”
With several appearances for the UK Barbarians and World XV, Ellis has plenty of high-profile rugby friends who might just surface when least expected.
All Blacks Tours have been guaranteeing Kiwis a good time for years. Since 2012, over 30,000 customers have enjoyed All Blacks-specific tours for both local and overseas internationals.
General manager David Caldwell explains what fans can expect for the 2023 World Cup.
“Tours are designed to be flexible to the customer’s budget and wishes. Some fans can only go for the opening ceremony and the first match between the All Blacks and France. Others will go for all 47 days.
“We’ll have about 40 staff working on behalf of 3500 tourists, translators, tour guides and administrators. We’ll look after flight and hotel bookings, all the logistics that can be a hassle.
“Some people like everything to be strictly organised, which we can do, but there will be scope for the more intrepid travellers to explore and then reconnect.”
Keven Mealamu, Ian Jones, Josh Kronfeld and ‘Buck’ Shelford are other All Blacks involved in delivering All Blacks Tours for Rugby World Cup 2023. Shelford won the World Cup in 1987, Jones and Kronfeld played in the epic 1995 decider and Mealamu is one of 21 players to win the World Cup twice.
After the 2011 World Cup, Sports Travel & Hospitality, a company that delivers similar sporting tours in the UK, Australia, and Japan, formed a partnership with New Zealand Rugby. Caldwell has been present from the outset and provided insight into the audience All Blacks Tours attracts.
“Kiwis from all walks of life who love rugby,” Caldwell says.
“The demographic tends to be business owners, farmers and those with disposable incomes. Often family and friends of players join, and some people mortgage their houses and save for years for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
For further information, check out allblackstours.com