Basil Lennan (L) and David Kneebone (R), two New Zealanders who are part of a scheme offering to host Welsh rugby fans and families free of charge at RWC 2011 in New Zealand in September, outside one of the available homes in Hamilton

Rugby fans in New Zealand are offering free accommodation to Welsh rugby supporters around crucial pool matches if they travel to the southern hemisphere to watch Wales play in RWC 2011.

They want the Welsh fans to experience a warm New Zealand welcome and head home with a true bond of friendship from their World Cup experience. The project has been launched by a group of supporters from around the Hamilton area of the North Island where Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland still has his family home. Hamilton businessman Basil Lennan is leading the project with full support from his schooldays friend Warren whose wife Trudi Gatland is helping organise the roster of homes.

More than fifty New Zealand families have already signed up to offer free overnight accommodation for supporters from Wales. The accommodation is being offered for up to four nights around the Wales versus Samoa and Fiji pool matches which will be played in Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium on September 18 and October 2 respectively. All the family homes are in and around Hamilton. The Waihi Beach area on the East coast has also committed to the idea with offers of accommodation between the games or as a base to explore the beautiful Coromandel region.

The families opening up their doors to Welsh fans will also have details of events at local rugby clubs where special welcomes are being laid on for groups of visiting supporters. Anyone interested in securing a stay at one of the family homes can email Basil Lennan at basil.lennan@bayleys.co.nz for more details. They will need to supply some personal and contact details along with specific numbers involved in their group.

The project organisers are hoping to hear from travelling fans soon to ensure they can help as many supporters as possible. Basil Lennan said: “The idea was forged out of a desire to show Welsh fans the best of Waikato Rugby hospitality. The idea is that no money will change hands but everyone involved will forge lasting bonds and create memories of the Rugby World Cup. A vast number of us have travelled and experienced fantastic hospitality in the past and this is a chance for us to give something back along with hopefully having a great time.

Basil Lennan is a former rugby coach and a close friend of both Warren and Trudi Gatland who are fully supportive of the project. He added: “We have already had contact from some families and friends of players who are likely to make the Wales squad, but this offer is open to all travelling supporters from Wales. We will need to know as much detail as possible to try to match up the groups with suitable families but we are treating this as something which will be quite enjoyable and probably quite social for all involved.”

The Group Chief Executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, Roger Lewis, said: “This is a fantastic offer which shows the great bonds of respect and friendship between our two rugby nations. I know the Welsh supporters who travel to New Zealand will have a fantastic time in a great country and this project will surely help make the experience even more enjoyable. It is a wonderful gesture and shows what high esteem Welsh fans are held in wherever they travel to support the team.” For further information on the project please contact Basil Lennan at Basil.lennan@bayleys.co.nz

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