New Zealand Rugby have gifted the city of Lyon a Maori bench as a symbol of their friendship after the French city hosted the All Blacks during the pool stage of Rugby World Cup 2023.
The bench was carved by the official New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. The carvings depict the relationships between those who support the team and rugby, and the legs have been designed in a French style to reflect the tournament hosts.
Current and past New Zealand players were at the presentation ceremony. Two-time RWC winner Dan Carter said: "It's very special, bringing a little bit of New Zealand culture and history to the city of Lyon.
"They have been fantastic hosts for the All Blacks throughout the pool stages of Rugby World Cup and it is a real symbol of friendship, the bench we presented today. It's great, it was really well received by the mayor of Lyon."
Stephen Donald, who kicked the winning penalty in the 2011 RWC final against France, added: "Although there is a pretty big rivalry between the All Blacks and the French, especially when it comes to World Cup time and all the heartbreak they have given us over the years, there is a wonderful relationship.
"You can go anywhere in France and their attitudes towards New Zealanders and the All Blacks is pretty cool."
The Mayor of Lyon, Grégory Doucet, also spoke about the special relationship the city has with the New Zealand team.
"It's good to talk about friendship, it's even better to have evidence and to have a real symbol of that," Doucet said. "To have this wonderful bench as a permanent sign of the friendship that we want to develop with New Zealand [is amazing]."
The presentation came two months after a wider campaign which took place in New Zealand. Twenty-six of these hand-crafted benches were presented by the squad and coaching staff to the places where they grew up.
The initiative symbolised their connection to communities, and that connection to the Lyon community was further highlighted when several members of the New Zealand squad visited a hospital in the city.
David Havili, Ethan de Groot, Ethan Blackadder and Shannon Frizell attended the Woman Mother Child hospital where patients performed the haka and the players swapped jerseys with them.