Ulster cubs to tackle New Zealand counterparts and carry Lions flag in front of a packed stadium on trip of a lifetime
British and Irish Lions Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jared Payne won't be the only Ulstermen in the Westpac Stadium this morning, with an Under-11 team from the province having also arrived in Wellington this week.
Comprising enthusiastic young guns from Coleraine, CIYMS and Ballymena, the mini tourists will play a series of games against their Kiwi counterparts, including Petone RFC, Hunt Old Boys RFC, Tawa RFC and Wellington RFC.
But they will take a rare break from the playing field today to watch their heroes in action against the Hurricanes (8.35am kick-off), before carrying the Lions flag onto the field at 'The Cake Tin' ahead of Saturday's second Test against the mighty All Blacks.
Before that memorable experience, they will be dubbed as 'mini Lions' when they take on an Under-11 All Black side on Friday.
Coached by Jonny McCartney and Paul Forbes, the 14 players had been using Coleraine Rugby Club as a training base ahead of the tour, and even had words of encouragement from legend and five-time Lion Willie John McBride before departing these shores.
"What an incredible opportunity for these boys," said McBride, the 1974 captain.
"To be travelling to the other side of the world to play rugby, it's something they will never forget. I must say I'm jealous."
As a legacy of the tour, the squad will be donating a contribution to Belfast and Wellington children's hospitals.
Ready to roar: The mini Lions, made up of young players from Coleraine, CIYMS and Ballymena, with their coaches